Vietnamese supermarkets replacing plastic bags with banana leaves

17:11 | 03/04/2019
Some supermarkets in Vietnam have been wrapping food in environmentally friendly products like fresh banana leaves, beginning a new trend as people are becoming increasingly aware of the harmful effects of plastic bags and are becoming protective of the living environment.

There is no denying that inexpensive plastics have made many aspects of food and water distribution much easier, however, emerging research and data from decades of increasing use of plastics suggest that people need to seriously re-evaluate their plastic usage.

As of 2018, about 380 million tonnes of plastic were produced worldwide each year. From the 1950s up to 2018, an estimated 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced worldwide, of which an estimated 9 per cent has been recycled and another 12 per cent has been incinerated.

Vietnam is one of Asia’s five worst ocean plastic waste polluters, according to international organisations. With 13 million tonnes of waste released to the ocean every year, the country ranks 17th in the world for ocean plastic waste pollution, according to Vietnamnews.vn.

Although there are no official statistics about the amount and varieties of plastics in the Vietnamese sea and islands, plastic waste is easy to spot in Vietnamese waters, as the country’s 112 estuaries carry plastics to the open ocean.

Numbers from the Vietnam Plastics Associationillustrate the scale of the problem. In 1990, each Vietnamese consumed 3.8 kilogrammes of plastics per year, but 25 years later, the figure hit 41 kilogrammes.

As many as 1,000 plastic bags are used each minute, but only 27 per cent of them are treated and recycled.

On the plus side, the country in general and each citizen in particular has been making efforts to manage imported plastic scrap and monitor plastic production and consumption.

vietnamese supermarkets replacing plastic bags with banana leaves
Vegetables wrapped in banana leaves at a Co.opmart store

According to the media representative of Saigon Co.op, knowing the advantages of using natural materials to pack food, the corporation’s supermarket system including Co.opmart, Co.op Xtra, Co.op Food, and Co.op Smile are experimenting and gradually replacing the packaging of fruits and vegetables by fresh banana leaves.

While banana leaf packaging is more expensive than nylon bags, the different is not significant, making it a practical way for supermarkets and consumers to contribute to the environmental protection drive.

Wrapping vegetables in banana leaves was tested at Co.opmart Phan Thiet. Many customers were interested in seeing scallion, celery, and water spinach wrapped in fresh green banana leaves.

vietnamese supermarkets replacing plastic bags with banana leaves
Customers are interested in the new packaging

Like Saigon Co.op, understanding the alarming extent of climate change and the long-term harm of plastic bags, from April 1, 2019 Big C Hanoi supermarkets – including Big C Thang Long, Big C Long Bien, Big C Hadong, Big C Le Trong Tan, and Big C The Garden – will officially begin wrapping vegetables in banana leaves. Products in the scheme will include celery, green asparagus, cilantro, basil, lettuce, herbs, and dill, among others.

vietnamese supermarkets replacing plastic bags with banana leaves

Lotte Mart Vietnam has been piloting the use of banana leaves instead of plastic bags at Lotte Mart in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City. The small, environmentally friendly changes elicited enthusiastic response from customers. The representative of Lotte Mart said that the supermarket is still testing the idea, but if it proves successful, Lotte Mart will replicate the scheme all across Ho Chi Minh City and other provinces.

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