Banana leaf dishes are a low-waste alternative to disposable plates in Peru


Nov. 4 2019, Updated 2:55 p.m. ET

Banana leaves may not be as yummy as grape leaves (in fact, they're barely edible) — but that doesn't mean they're not of value. A Peru-based program has found a way to turn banana leaves into biodegradable bowls and dishes that can break down and return to soil within two months. And considering the fact that banana leaves are a natural waste product of the banana farming industry, these plates are a great alternative to single-use crockery made from plastic or polystyrene. 

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As reported by Truth Theory, the Peruvian company, called Chuwa Plant, also known as Bio Plant, has already made 50,000 units of the bowls and plates. Interestingly, some of the products are made from banana leaves, while others are made from banana stem fibers. According to Chuwa Plant's Facebook page, the plates and bowls are able to withstand heat and liquid, making them a solid option for pretty much any meal.

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Chuwa Plant works with small banana leaf producers across the Peruvian Amazon, and the company pays workers a fair wage and provides them with technical training, as reported by La Republica. The Peruvian news outlet also noted that Chuwa Plant partnered up with a Peruvian governmental organization called Innóvate Peru to ramp up production. According to its website, Innóvate Peru is a program that co-finances Peru-based projects of varying disciplines, including eco-conscious companies.

In case you were wondering, Chuwa is Aymaran for "container" or "bowl," according to Chuwa Plant's Instagram. Aymara is a Native American language spoken primarily in the Andes and in Bolivia, where it is an official language, along with Spanish.

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Of course, when it comes to dining materials, the most eco-friendly options are always reusables. However, there are some instances when that is not an option — for example, food trucks, food festivals, and small restaurants that do not have dishwashers typically do not have the capacity to provide reusable cups, bowls, plates, and cutlery. Additionally, people who may have disabilities that prevent them from washing dishes may also require single-use alternatives.

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All those establishments and people do not have a choice but to use single-use disposable items. But what they do have control over is what materials those disposable items are made of, as well as how those items are disposed of. By choosing compostable plates made from a sustainable, renewable resource that can be composted, consumers and businesses can reduce the amount of oil that is drilled to make plastic or styrofoam plates, as well as the amount of waste they send to the landfill.

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Chula Plant is not the first company to make use of banana leaves. In one Thailand supermarket, grocers package produce with banana leaves instead of plastic. Additionally, banana stem fibers can be spun into a sturdy fabric, that can be turned into products like wallets, ropes, paper, textiles, and more, according to Fashion United.

Chuwa Plant's use of the banana industry's all-natural waste products sets a great example for what major industries need to start doing to combat our overconsumption of plastic and the climate crisis. Unfortunately, there is so much money at stake in the oil and gas industries that leaders are hesitant to shift from those harmful materials to renewable materials — but perhaps banana leaves will be just the thing to help make that shift easier.


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