You’re used to hearing, “paper or plastic?” at the supermarket. In Asia, it might sound more like “paper, plastic, or banana leaves?” Following the lead of many markets in Thailand, supermarkets across Asia are using banana leaves instead of plastic as an alternative method of packaging food.
The concept was pioneered by the Rimping supermarket in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and immediately became popular with shoppers. Soon, Vietnamese supermarkets like Lotte Mart, Saigon Co.Op, and Big C caught wind of the idea, and started to mimic it.
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 I’m more willing to buy in larger quantities. I think this initiative will help locals be more aware of protecting the environment.”
This initiative comes at an important time, as Vietnam currently ranks fourth in the world for the most plastic waste dumped into the ocean, with about 2,500 tons each day. Indeed, reducing single-use plastic bags in supermarkets is becoming a trend — not just in Asia, but around the world. Since banning ultra-thin plastic bags back in 2008, China has seen a staggering 66 percent drop in plastic bag use.
The introduction of banana leaves as a plastic replacement might be slow-going at first, but if it proves successful, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the initiative spread well beyond Asia.