The

evil of plastic usage is hardly unknown to this world which is, today, rapidly

progressing towards a technologically advanced lifestyle. However, a

progressive lifestyle not only requires the citizens to be efficiently educated

towards the problems of the world but also be sensitive enough to address them

act with responsibility.

Deploying

disposable plastic in forms of polythene, polypropylene, polycarbonate,

polyvinyl chloride (PVC), etc. leave the earth in distress of issues.

Waterlogging, non-biodegradability of the plastic waste, death of terrestrial

and aquatic organisms are just some of the most common examples of the menace

produced plastic usage. Where there are numerous ways to stop this cruelty to

mother nature, let us focus on one of the easiest, cheapest, creative and most

sustainable ways of saving ourselves from the ghost plastic consumption – using leaf

plates in place of disposable plasticware.

Serving

food in disposable plates made from plant leaves has been a well-known cultural

practice in India for long. Especially used in pujas, such leaf

plates are used in various community feasts as well as regular street-side

delis over snacks and chaats. These leaf plates are biodegradable and

renewable – thus posing no threat to the natural resources of the earth. They

are also biologically advantageous for human use due to the presence of certain

nutritional and medicinal values that the human body can benefit from. The dried

leaves contain antibacterial and antifungal properties that when bleached into

our food from the plates, stand as barriers to environmental and food-borne

pathogens from adversely affecting our bodies.

Not

only as dining plates, but the leaves of plants like banana (Musa sp.), sal (Shorea sp.), addaku (Phanera sp.), palash (Butea

sp.), palm (Areca catechu) etc. are also used to

make disposable cups and food wrappers. The use of polythene bags as carriers

for these purposed can thus be completely replaced by plant leaves. One of the

biggest advantages that these leaf plates bring to us, is the ease of washing

them. Where just a few splashes of water can do away with these plates, plastic

plates generally require chemical-based detergents which when drained into our

natural waterbodies, lead to eutrophication and mass killing of the aquatic

animals. Thus, disposable leaf plates also help in conserving the aquatic

ecosystem.

The

carbon footprint left during the manufacture of these leaf plates is significantly

low. These are mainly manufactured by the tribal communities of India in their

native regions. They collect the dry leaves from forests and sanctuaries, wash

and design and sew them, and send them for sale in the markets. The entire

procedure involves an insignificant amount of fuel combustion or any major

pollution-causing agent. Moreover, this sustainable industry stands as a major

source of income in rural India. The industry is highly dependent on women for

designing and sewing, which is great for empowering tribal women with

independence and responsibility. The products from the leaf-based cutlery

industry are famous even in the foreign markets. More and more people from the

foreign lands of Europe and other south-east Asian countries are seen to

approach this indigenous market due to the utmost beauty of their products,

their cost-effectiveness, and the fact that they are so good for the

environment. Leaf plate stitching is a major livelihood activity for tribal

people in the Indian states of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra

Pradesh, and Telangana.

Utilizing the dry leaves also helps in waste management, which may have otherwise been dumped as more load on the earth and its people. Keeping in mind the extensive profits of the usage of leaf plates, both in environmental and economic aspects, it is needed that the Government addresses the cause with much more effect. A fair price should be fixed for these plates such that the industry thrives even further. The environment will profit from the increased use of leaf plates, and so will the poor people who are often deprived of fair payment for their efforts. So next time you think about a single-use plate, think leaf plates!

@www.theearthview.in