Single-use plastic has been making waves in the news ever since it became apparent just how harmful it can be. In 2016, the world produced more than 35 million metric tons of plastic, and half of that was for single use items like plastics packaging, bottles, and straws. Those items stay in our ecosystem for up to 1,000 years. Scientists estimate that by 2050, there will be more plastic in our ocean than fish.
It might seem like a daunting task, but if everyone makes a small effort, it can change. Check out how one supermarket chain in Asia has done its part.
One Supermarket Has Begun To Package Their Produce In Banana Leaves
Rimping Supermarket in Chiang Mai, Thailand, recently decided to swap out their single-use plastic wrappers for banana leaves. The banana leaves are now used to keep bunches of cucumbers, peppers, and beans together.
On each of the banana leaves is a sticker with the barcode, product, and notice that the leaves and food are pesticide free. While the stickers are still single-use plastic, getting rid of plastic packaging is a step forward for grocery stores.
Using banana leaves as a replacement packaging isn’t exactly rocket science. In Hawaii, there is a long tradition of using banana leaves to wrap food during pig roasts. In other Central and South American countries, banana leaves have been used to wrap tamales. Asia also uses the leaves to wrap and serve sticky rice.
In fact, grocery stores used to wrap their produce in banana leaves until a banana leaf shortage made plastic cheaper to buy.
It was Perfect Homes Chiangmai’s Facebook post that allowed the eco-packaging to go viral. After congratulating the supermarket on their page, more than 3.5 million people viewed the post and over 17,000 people shared it.
Some people began to recall how the farmer’s markets they frequented as children also used reeds or straw to wrap vegetables. Commentators even began to ask where they can buy banana leaves to package their own produce at home with.
While a lot of praise came in for the supermarket’s eco-friendly packaging, many were quick to point out that it would once again lead to a banana leaf shortage. People suggested that time and effort be put into creating cheaper, biodegradable packaging alternatives.
Others were also quick to point out that Vietnam and Asia as a whole is one of the most “plastic-choked places you can visit.” This is largely because, for a long time, China actually imported 30% of the world’s plastic waste.
If you love the idea of minimizing your own use of plastic then try a few of these other tips and tricks at the grocery store. Start by shopping in bulk. Bring your own cloth bags or glass containers to fill up on rice, cereal, and pasta. Just be sure to weigh the container first at the checkout.
You can also choose to shop with reusable bags and bring small mesh bags to keep your own produce together. Every little action can make a big difference.