A Thailand supermarket came up with a genius way to reduce plastic packaging: wrap its produce in banana leaves instead.
The banana leaf packaging comes from the Rimping supermarket in Chiangmai, Thailand. A real estate company in Chiang Mai, Perfect Homes, posted photos of the banana leaf packaging to their Facebook page and it quickly gained widespread attention.
Of the 9 billion tonnes of plastic ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. This, along with projections of rapidly increased plastic manufacturing, has led to global attention to single-use plastics.
The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that by 2050 there will be 12 billion tonnes of plastic in landfills, the environment, and oceans. Of this waste, cigarette butts, plastic drinking bottles, food wrappers, and plastic grocery bags are the biggest contributors.
The use of banana leaves instead of plastic for packaging vegetables is a great way to reduce single-use plastic. While it looks like they use some plastic for adhering the label, this method significantly reduces the amount of plastic required. They are simply wrapped in a banana leaf and secured using a flexible piece of bamboo. Banana leaves are a great alternative to plastic as the leaf is large, thick and supple enough to be folded.
One thing to consider is the relative cost of plastic versus banana leaves. In tropical locations, banana leaves are readily available locally and could be acquired for free depending on the quantity needed. In more temperate locations the use of banana leaves could be significantly more expensive than plastic. However, using local biodegradable products could be a good alternative in locations where bananas don’t grow.
The use of banana leaves to wrap food in has a long history. In some tropical regions of Mexico, tamales are wrapped in banana leaves. Hawaiians use banana leaves during pig roasts to protect the pig from the hot lava rocks. They are also used to wrap sticky rice in southeast Asia.