Thai, Vietnamese supermarkets praised for ditching plastic packaging

Several supermarket chains have opted to use banana leaf wraps on certain products

Many fruit and vegetable products are now wrapped in banana leaves. (Pefect Homes Chiang Mai/Facebook)

Many fruit and vegetable products are now wrapped in banana leaves. (Pefect Homes Chiang Mai/Facebook)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A supermarket chain in Thailand has been praised for “going green” and ditching plastic packaging in favor of traditional banana leaf wraps.

Rimping Supermarket in the northern city of Chiang Mai decided to abandon single-use wrappers for many of its fresh products in an effort to curb plastic waste, which is desecrating oceans around the world. Banana leaves are now being used instead to bind fresh fruit and vegetables, providing a natural barrier against damage.

As of 2018, 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic had been produced globally since the 1950s, 91 percent of which was not recycled. 8 million metric tons end up in oceans each year, which is turning natural habitats into minefields for many aquatic animals.

The kind of plastics that coat supermarket products are rarely recyclable and do not degrade naturally, meaning they have to be dumped in landfills or elsewhere. The banana leaf provides a tough and supple alternative that breaks down completely in nature after several months.

Online commenters have praised the Thai supermarket for switching up its habits, suggesting that it not only helps reduce waste but also makes food look more appetizing.

Natural produce in Rimping Supermarket. (Perfect Homes Chiang Mai/Facebook)

A supermarket chain in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh city has also followed suit and replaced plastic packaging with banana leaves on some of its products. Lotte Mart said banana leaf wraps cost no more than plastic, and remain fresh for up to two days, according to VietNam News.

Taiwan issued a ban on retailers providing free plastic shopping bags in 2017 and has announced a restriction on the provision of plastic straws, which is to enter into force on July 1. Many of the products that sit on supermarket shelves still suffer from the over-use of plastic packaging, however.

Banana leaves could provide a solution for Taiwan, as they are already used to wrap rice dumplings (zongzi, 粽子) commonly sold during Dragon Boat Festival (端午節). Bananas are farmed across the country for domestic consumption and export.