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There’s a war on plastic now. It’s everywhere: in our soil, our clothes, our rivers. The world is desperate for a magical solution.

What if we told you that there is something that can be done, problems that can be solved… all by our humble banana tree.

1. Banana leaf as plates

German company Leaf Republic had the brilliant idea to stitch palm leaves together and press it into a traditional “plate” shape to be used in place of disposable plates.

Left, a dish named after the leaf it’s actually served on, and right, the “innovative” German plate that has STITCHES!

It’s a fantastic idea, except anyone who eats South Indian cuisine literally laughed their heads off while eating banana leaf rice, which is rice and curries plated on… wait for it… a banana leaf, used as a plate.

We’ve been using the big leaf to dish out our hot food for millennia, and our leaves never needed stitches, or heavy machinery to be pressed into plates.

Clever folding can even turn banana leaves into bowls to hold hot soup or curries!
(Picture credit: Facebook)

2. Banana leaf as fresh produce packaging

Grocery stores sell you convenience. Unfortunately for the planet, that convenience usually comes as cling wrap and plastic packaging.

The dreadfully common scene at any grocery store.
(Picture credit: The Science Explorer)

More often than not, the disposable trash we make at the end of a shopping trip is almost equal to the actual amount of food purchased.

So why not get rid of it entirely?

Certain grocery stores in Malaysia like Village Grocer have already started using leaves in place of plastic to package vegetables.
(Picture credit: Facebook)

It’s all the carrying convenience without the guilt of plastic. Doesn’t that sound like a better idea?

3. Banana leaf as “tapau” containers

Our neighbours in the Philippines recently introduced Pinyapel, a specialty paper that is made out of discarded pineapple leaves.

Since the Philippines is the second largest producer of pineapples globally, it makes sense for them to use what agricultural waste is available there.

What to do with the bit that’s not edible? Mash it into paper, I suppose.
(Picture credit: Purveyr)

It is meant to act as a replacement to packaging, but the Malaysian in us is scratching our heads over the complex process of turning leaves into packaging when you can easily just… wrap things with leaves.

A lot of our food is wrapped in leaves. Many of our favourite dishes are cooked together with leaves for a special “flavour”, but for the most part, our banana leaves can be deftly wrapped into a solid packaging to hold anything you want.

The best kind of nasi lemak comes wrapped in banana leaf.
(Picture credit: Research Gate)

There’s a lot of stress surrounding going plastic-free. When you realize how much and how frequently plastic waste is generated per person, a lot of people panic and hit dead-ends trying to find plastic-alternatives without realizing that we’ve only had a wide-spread surge in consumer plastics for 50 years or so.

For a majority of human civilization, we’ve survived perfectly fine without disposable plastic.

The banana leaves are the solution to our plastic problem.
(Picture credit: Gardens.eco)

Our needs haven’t changed much since then either: we just want a convenient way to carry our food and produce. And there’s a solution that we’ve been using all this while.

So ditch plastic lah. Our banana leaves have never let us down.


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('Pinyapel' ignites the beginning for a solution to agricultural wastes)

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