With our earth and oceans being choked with plastic waste leaking poisonous chemicals into the environment, innovative alternatives are desperately needed to reduce and replace the use of plastics, and a group in Peru has teamed up for such a project called Bio Plant, which has the potential to do just that.
Using banana leaves, the group successfully created biodegradable dishes similar to take-out containers used across the globe, adding an estimated 8 million metric ton of toxic plastic waste to our planet annually, according to a 2018 Earth Day survey.
The innovative banana leaf based product decomposes completely in just 60 days and are free from carcinogens like styrene, a petroleum derivative found in synthetic plates and dishes. In comparison, it takes 500 years or more for Styrofoam and polystyrene products, which have already caused devastating damage to our planet, to decompose.
The project was submitted to the Bio Challenge contest supported by the Innovative Peru Program for where they were able to secure financial support for their biodegradable products, allowing for the design and manufacture of the specialized machines and equipment required to make the banana leaf products. They have successfully manufactured 50,000 units of the dishes per year with the aim to substantially increase future production.
The group works directly with small and marginalized producers from the Peruvian Amazon to source their raw material, says project leader Josue Soto. Producers get a fair price plus invaluable technical training providing them with a sustainable source of income to supplement the loss of cultivation of bananas. The leaves used as raw material are those that fall from the trees when the banana clusters are harvested.
The banana trees or even the leaves are not cut down as they use the leaves that normally fall off when the plantation workers pluck the banana clusters from the trees.
The Bio Plant plates and dishes are currently used in celebrations and festive occasions throughout Peru and plans to target ecological wineries and the natural restaurant markets next. Depending on its thickness, the dishes cost between US $29.64 to 35.56 for 100 units and prices are expected to drop with increased production.
The Chuwa Plant group has also successfully substituted banana leaves with cardboard cellulose and paper which is also biodegradable, can withstand various temperatures and holds liquids as well.
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