Plastic Packaging Being Replaced By Banana Leaves In Asian Supermarkets

It began in Thailand at Rimping supermarket: Wrapping produce in banana leaves instead of plastic as a way to reduce the amount of plastic waste in landfills across the world. And now the trend is taking hold all across Asia, according to Matador Network:

“The banana leaves are multi-purpose, able to be used for vegetables, fruits, and even fresh meat. The new sustainable food packaging might look strange at first, but local shoppers are supportive of the move. One Vietnamese shopper said, ‘When I see vegetables wrapped in these beautiful banana leaves Iā€™m more willing to buy in larger quantities. I think this initiative will help locals be more aware of protecting the environment.’

Though the move is a great step in the right direction, Green Matters notes that Rimping hasn’t abandoned plastic altogether:

“Unfortunately, the packaging is still not perfect. Bits of clear plastic wrap are visible on some of the items, and plastic labels are stuck to each leaf ā€” but hopefully Rimping will continue to improve the innovation. Not to mention, some of the items pictured, such as lettuce and cucumbers, really do not need to be wrapped at all, as it’s pretty standard to sell them loose. However, this banana leaf packaging could really come in handy for small items that are almost always packaged in plastic cartons, such as berries, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes.”

And the move to banana leaves has another attractive benefit for stores that are making the change: Banana leaves cost a lot less than plastic. As Forbes explains:

“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.”

Banana leaves have been used for many years to wrap food. In parts of Mexico, tamales are wrapped in the leaves instead of corn husks. Hawaiians have also utilized banana leaves for decades to wrap pigs that are being cooked. The leaves protect the cooking pork from the hot lava rocks used as a heat source. And in Southeast Asia, banana leaves are the choice for wrapping sticky rice.

Rimping, by the way, is truly a giant in the Asian grocery market. Founded in 1932, the chain of stores has long been known as a true “green grocer,” and proudly offers other sustainable packaging options for its customers:

“For example: customers who forget to bring reusable totes can borrow Rimping cloth bags for a deposit; Rimping offers biodegradable bioplastic carrier bags as well as reused cardboard boxes to pack groceries; a 50 Thai Baht ($1.57 USD) donation is made for every customer who does not take a bag; and Rimping only uses biodegradable containers for dining.”

More and more retailers across the planet are looking for ways to reduce the amount of plastic they use. Trader Joe’s recently announced that in response to customer demand, it would reduce the amount of plastic it uses for packaging and other purposes. And the British grocery chain Tesco also says it plans to greatly cut back on plastic used in its produce departments.


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Andrew Bradford

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