Use leaves to wrap vegetables instead, say green activists

Vegetables wrapped in leaves on sale at Chiangmai supermarkets. (Pictures from Perfect Homes Chiang Mai)

PETALING JAYA: Environmental activists groups are calling for action to use leaves of plants instead of plastic for wrapping vegetables.

Andrew Sebastian, chief executive of the Malaysian Ecotourism and Conservation Society said Malaysians should follow the worldwide trend of people choosing eco-friendly types of packaging.

“We should look into coming out with laws, guidelines and incentives to make sure our market place and shopping complexes use such products.

“Our anti-plastic bags campaign have not gathered momentum. We are still into using single-use plastics,” he said.

Supermarkets overseas have been reported to be going green, with one supermarket in Chiangmai, Thailand, using banana leaves and bamboo to bundle all fruits and vegetables.

Pictures from Perfect Homes Chiang Mai

Sebastian noted that Malaysia and Thailand share the same tropical weather where leafy trees grow easily, which can be turned into compost when discarded, unlike plastics.

He suggested raising charges for single-use plastic bag from 20 sen to RM1 each to discourage consumers.

Another activist, Irshad Mobarak, who has dedicated the past 30 years of his life to environmental conservation, said it was a norm 50 years ago to use mahang leaves for wrapping food.

“Market traders used mahang and banana leaves to wrap fruits and vegetables. We should restart this,” he said, noting that such usage would provide jobs and businesses to plant and sell the leaves.

Pictures from Perfect Homes Chiang Mai

However, environmentalist Anthony Tan said a study needs to be carried out to gauge if there would be enough supply of leaves to replace plastic wrapping.

“Or are there other forms of solutions for Malaysians to go green?” he said.

One measure would be to encourage people to use their own containers to buy vegetables and meat.

The government has banned plastic straws in Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur and Labuan. Consumers are also charged 20 sen per plastic bag on certain days of the week.