Stories of wales washing up on shores with plastic in their stomach is far too common today. It’s not just whales, dolphins, turtles, and orcas, but in fact all marine animals are suffering due to the rise in plastic pollution. A report by Credit Suisse warned that by 2050, our oceans will have more plastic than fish. Whales washing up on shores are a wake up call from nature and it’s time to make a change. One supermarket in Thailand however, has already taken steps towards a greener future. Instead of using plastic wrappers to pack their products, Rimping supermarket in Chiangmai, Thailand is using banana leaves; a natural alternative.
When most supermarkets use plastic wrap on fruits and vegetables, Rimping supermarket is replacing them with banana leaves. The store also uses thin straps that are also made from banana leaves to secure the pack.
The Rimping supermarket in Thailand is using this unique method to wrap fruits, vegetables and other food products. Apart from the packaging technique, the utilizes biodegradable stickers that are embedded with the barcode and details of the product.
In addition to the biodegradable stickers, another sticker is utilized to let customers know that the leaves are ‘pesticide safe’. This ensures customers that the package does not contaminate the packed product in any way and that the leaves used were grown in the safest way possible.
One of the biggest environmental concerns is the use of plastic in food products. Not only do they bleach toxins into our foods, they are also designed for single use, which adds more plastic to the ever growing problem of plastic pollution.
After the store’s green wrapping technique went viral in social media, many stores around the world are following in their steps.
When stories of the market hit many social media networks, it grabbed the attention of store owners all around the world. Now, Vietnamese supermarkets, Lotte Mart in Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon Co.op, and Big C in Hanoi have all started experimenting with the new technique. According to a Lotte Mart executive, the idea of replacing plastic wrappers with banana leaves is still at the testing phase. However, the chain hopes to extend the practice nationwide very soon. Customers are also thrilled with the green change since stores are promoting a healthier alternative for the environment.
Hoa, a local customer, told Vice News: “When I see vegetables wrapped in these beautiful banana leaves, I’m more willing to buy in larger quantities. I think this initiative will help locals be more aware of protecting the environment”.
The ec0-friendly experiment is an aim at reducing plastic waste in our environment.
While thin sheets of plastic used to wrap our food seems completely harmless, it does more damage to our environment than we realize. Plastic is a type of waste that takes too long to decompose. Normally, it can take somewhere around 1,000 years for a single piece of plastic to fully decompose. Meanwhile the plastic bags that we use once and throw away take somewhere between 1,000 – 10,000 years to decompose.
It is estimated that out of every 200 plastic bags that we use, an average of 1 bag is recycled. The remaining bags either end up in landfills or in our planet’s oceans. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year. The average family also accumulates around 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store.
The initiative to use banana leaves is something street vendors in Asian countries have been using for decades. Not only does this save them money, it also helps our environment. Today, supermarkets are adapting the technique as a greener alternative.
While the idea of wrapping foods in banana leaves is eco-friendly, there are still many who prefer their foods be packed in plastic-encased wraps. Many people around the world had mixed emotions to the banana leaf technique. When some supported the greener movement, others were worried about their foods being contaminated with dust and other people touching them. However, supermarkets around the world are testing the banana leaf technique and are also promoting bags made out of corn powder. These bags are not only similar to bags made out of plastic, they are biodegradable; thus helping our environment.
The trend of banning plastic products, especially bags, have been becoming popular lately. As countries realize the harmful effects of plastic, they are taking swift actions to reduce the production. For instance, Vietnam ranks fourth globally in the amount of plastic waste dumped into the ocean, according to VN Express. Today, several supermarkets in Vietnam are following the trend of using banana leaves to wrap foods, thus reducing the amount of plastic waste ending up in our oceans.
Here’s why continuous usage of plastic is a real problem:
Researchers in Germany are warning that the impact of microplastics in soils, sediments and freshwater could have a long-term negative effect on such ecosystems. Chlorinated plastic can release harmful chemicals into the surrounding soil, which can then seep into groundwater or other surrounding water sources, and also the ecosystem. The water is then consumed by us, thus transferring the harmful toxins into our bodies.
Another major contributor to plastic pollution is microplastics. Minuscule fibers of acrylic, nylon, spandex, and polyester are transferred into wastewater treatment plants or discharged into the open environment when we wash our clothes. According to a recent study cited by Water World, more than 700,000 microscopic plastic fibers could be released into the environment during each cycle of a washing machine. A study in 2016 commissioned by clothing company Patagonia and conducted by researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that washing a single synthetic jacket just once released an average of 1.7 grams of microfibers.
Thankfully, some countries and manufacturers are realizing the importance of making a change and are acting up on their initiative.
1. In 2002, Bangladesh became the first country to ban plastic bags.
2. Since then, China, Israel, South Africa, the Netherlands, Morocco, Kenya, Rwanda, Mauritania, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Albania and Georgia have since implemented similar bans.
3. In 2009, the U.S. capital was one of the first cities to lead the way on ending plastic pollution by implementing a tax on plastic bags. The collected tax revenue goes to the Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Fund and distributes reusable bags to low-income and elderly communities in DC.
4. In 2003, South Africa had actually declared plastic bags their ‘national flower’ due to their overwhelming presence in trees and bushes. Since then, some of the countries in Africa have instated bans or taxes for using plastic bags.
5. As of 2019, several states and territories in Australia have begun placing bans on the use of plastic bags.
6. In 1994, Denmark was the first country to begin charging a tax on them. Since then tax was instated, usage dropped from around 800 million to approximately 400 million bags per year.
7. In 2002, Ireland began charging customers for plastic bags and immediately saw a 90% reduction in usage and litter.
8. By 2019, England, Italy, Wales, Scotland and Germany have placed similar bans.
9. Mexico and some Canadian provinces and territories have similar measures in place.
10. In 2014, California became the first state to ban plastic bags and charge for paper bags.