This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.
It wasn’t too long ago that Rimping supermarket in Chiangmai, Thailand implemented a very crafty alternative to single-use plastic by using banana leaves instead. Supermarkets all over Vietnam has since done the same thing, much to the enthusiasm of their customers and Facebook users across the globe who quickly spread the news. And it appears that their Southeast Asian neighbor the Philippines is following suit.
Why banana leaves? Bananas are native to tropical countries like the Philippines and Vietnam, and their leaves can grow to nine feet in length. The leaves are sturdy enough for wrapping and are ideal for wrapping fresh produce since the two have a similar shelf life. Despite being more expensive than its nylon and plastic counterparts, the difference is negligible.
LCC (Liberty Commercial Center) Mall in Legazpi City, Albay has started to wrap products from their produce section in banana leaves, including chilis, cabbages, and beans. Meanwhile, Dizon Farms, a local produce supplier for huge supermarket chains in the Philippines, also started to introduce changes in their packaging for select supermarket chains like Robinsons.
The Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam are all countries that have been tagged by Greenpeace for plastic pollution in their high seas. In a study by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (Gaia) last March, daily plastic waste in the Philippines reaches up to 163 million sachets and 3 million diapers.
Swapping single-use plastics with banana leaves is a step closer to reducing further waste, and a new iteration of the global movement against plastic. In the supermarket, bringing your own bag or opting for biodegradable bags instead of plastic has already been promoted as an alternative globally.
What’s interesting about the move to use banana leaves is that aside from its eco-friendly appeal and practicality, banana leaves actually look better than plastic. Some of the produce in LCC Mall and Dizon Farms are wrapped like a bouquet, and most of the countries that have adopted the practice use twine or abaca to wrap the whole thing together.
Think of each package as a little gift for yourself and the environment.