Re-useable bamboo melamine cups tested and criticized

German consumer organization finds high levels of melamine and formaldehyde migration from re-useable bamboo-based cups, condemns misleading labeling advertising them as recyclable and eco-friendly

On July 23, 2019, the German consumer organization Stiftung Warentest published an article investigating the concentration of melamine that migrates into drinks from bamboo-based, re-useable cups. The organization carried out tests on twelve re-useable bamboo cups. Each cup was filled with 3% acetic acid and kept at 70 degrees Celsius for two hours to simulate contact with a hot drink such as coffee. This was repeated seven times for each cup. Measurements showed that four of the twelve cups resulted in ‘very high amounts of melamine’ (CAS 108-78-1) after the third filling. In three of the other cups, this occurred after the seventh filling. High concentrations of formaldehyde were also measured.
The article reminds readers that such bamboo cups cannot be made from bamboo alone and rely on the addition of melamine-formaldehyde resin to serve as a glue to hold the bamboo together. It warns specifically against the use of such cups in microwaves and also criticizes manufacturer claims advertising the recyclability and biodegradability of the cups. It explains that as the cups are made with melamine, they will neither degrade in the environment nor within industrial composting facilities for many years. The cups are also not recyclable in traditional material recycling processes. Only waste to energy incineration is an option.

Concerns about migration from bamboo food contact materials and also about marketing efforts labeling them as ‘eco-friendly’ were also published in a recent discussion document from an EU working group (FPF reported). The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has recently classified melamine as being “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (FPF reported).


Published by Food Packaging Forum

Re-usable bamboo cups tested and criticized

Our Opinion:

We agree with the views shared in the report.

Melamine and melamine-bamboo products are safe as long as the temperature of the food served/stored in these products are less than 60 Deg C. They are also not safe for microwave use. Due to lack of consumer awareness such considerations are not taken into account when these products are used. Many restaurants continue to serve hot food in melamine products. The labels on these products are often misleading consumers with either partial or incorrect information.

The tittle of reports and news articles published on this subject can potentially mislead the readers. We had to clarify few Europeans familiar with these reports, as they understood that bamboo is not good for food contact use. The emphasis of the title is on bamboo with no mention of melamine, which is actually the cause for concern.