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September 21, 2018 Tapari, Leaf Plates

What are the benefits and usage of leaf plates?

Benefits and usage of Leaf Plates

We often see utensils and dishes made with plastics and thermocol on special occasions like parties, marriages and other events. They are easy to handle and cheap to buy which is why they’re so widely used. It’s incredible to think that it our society has made it easier to extract oil from the ground, ship it to a refinery, turn it into plastic, shape it appropriately, transport it to the store, and then finally sell it, only for it to be thrown away. For everyone, it is extremely important to understand that this extreme convenience of using fossil fuels to make single-use disposables is causing serious threats to the environment.  There is something natural which is a perfect alternative and sustainable option for where disposable dishes are needed. You might have noticed in Asia, when you go out to eat on streets these days, that you sometimes see leaf dishes in use. These dishes, after centuries of use in a traditional way,  have now started replacing paper and plastic plates. These beautiful plates and bowls do not only look fancy and unique but also have almost zero environmental impact being made from just leaves and bamboo fibre. In Nepal these leaf dishes are known as “Tapari” and for centuries they’ve been used in traditional and religious activities and rituals, one of these is known as Pooja, but since it became more widely known about the damage of plastic pollution they have started being used widely again in street markets and households both in Nepal and around the world.

With the increasing population and increasing resource demands globally, our environment is under serious threat. We are now facing global warming as a planet which is resulting in severe climatic changes around the world. Every year, there are new climate records being broken and extreme weather events –  floods, droughts, hurricanes and other climatic disasters are all too common in the news. Along with the increasing energy demands globally which is the main cause of global warming, our consumption behaviour has rapidly been seeking more resources for all sorts of ‘luxury goods’ and products to improve our lifestyle. This has resulted in massive deforestation and a consumer society where resources are depleting at an alarming rate much faster than they are replenished. However, the positive thing is that more and more people have also started realizing how serious our over-consumption of the natural resources really is and realizing that their are threats to nature by the products we use which will in turned be a threat for our upcoming generations. 

Leaf dishes have undoubtedly been a product that has huge environmental value. They are one of the best alternatives and can replace both plastic and paper plates which therefore means fossil fuels don’t have to be extracted in order to produce them, and not only that, but the production  has almost no environmental impact as no trees have to be cut and the leaves can be harvested in a sustainable way. As well as helping in this way leaf dishes can also help on a local scale because unlike plastic plates which can take upto 100 years to biodegrade, if a leaf plate is left in the environment it will biodegrade in just a few weeks. This helps in developing a more clean and pleasant environment. Plastic pollution is a serious problem as only 9% of the whole plastics are currently recycled while the remaining 91% are left in landfill sites, in the natural environment and in large water resources. This ends up causing the death of thousands of species particularly in our oceans where marine life and sea birds suffer greatly, but also on land. Paper products could appear to be a solution however to this problem too,however for paper it demands large quantities of wood which has to result in deforestation. If this is not done sustainably it can be worse for out atmosphere than using fossil fuels. Leaf dishes bypasses the need for deforestation as harvesting the leaves can be done without cutting the trees.

Leaf dishes have undoubtedly been a remarkable solution to help the environment by reducing plastic usage, perhaps by accident since there was not any idea of the damage plastic was going to cause back when leaf dishes were first used centuries ago! Being entirely organic, it means that they are 100% biodegradable and compostable so can be just used as compost or burnt after use, nothing wrong with leaving your plates on the ground after your picnic with leaf plates! It’s interesting that this traditional dish our distant ancestors used to use centuries ago, is a natural product and completely sustainable, but since then science and technology facilitated so many things that cannot be sustainable and causes pollution, and now finally more and more people are going back to this very organic and natural type of product more and more. It’s like a reversal back to sustainable ways.

Here are some other important points in using leaf plates.

Leaf Plates - Tapari
Leaf Plates – Tapari

Based entirely on vegetation and organic material,  plates and dishes can be made of different species of plant material  including bamboo, palm leaves, grasses, green leaves as well as other material like bagasse, a waste material obtained from sugarcane. In Nepal and India leaf plates (locally known as Tapari) are often made of Sal tree leaves. Sal leaves have been used traditionally to help with health problems in Nepal and they are completely safe to eat.

Leaf plates are beautiful, stylish and attractive, while also not too expensive. They also complement home and other decorations, unlike paper and plastic disposables. They’re also are convenient to use and easy to dispose. As aforementioned, they are biodegradable and healthy for environment. They are consumable by micro-organisms and natural compounds upon disposed.

Without any argument, Leaf Plates “Tapari” are natural gift to us being 100% natural and Eco-friendly. They do not have any threats over our health and hazardous effect over the environment. They can be burnt or disposed easily. Moreover, Tapari made from Sal Leaves are consumable directly by our household animals like cows and buffaloes so we do not need to worry about disposing them.

Leaf plates are certainly in trend worldwide having significant environmental value. If we look at the Nepalese market too, it has gone beyond conventional Tapari. They are made of different sizes. Leaf plates manufacturing have emerged as an industry these days. And it has also contributed our community by providing lots of employment and also been supporting environment conservation. Bamboo plates, areca leaf plates are trending. You can even notice these leaf plates being used in lots of expensive eateries. It is not only limited to street momos using Tapari, giving them synonym as Tapari Momo. In Nepal, leaf plates manufacturing is still a start-up. Meanwhile, it is a booming and huge industry beyond our border.

Some European nations are even importing huge amount of areca palm leaves from India as those nations do not have these trees. Use of Leaf plates have replaced tons of paper and plastic products. Moreover, the whole import process has also shortened by distance and time saving lots of money. Similarly, leaf plates  have low carbon footprints. If you want to know what carbon footprint is: it is the total amount of green house gases emitted directly or indirectly by human, organization, event or product. It is measured in the tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). You might be shocked to learn that burning just 1 kg of oil produced about 3 kg CO2. Similarly, every kg of plastic produces 6 kg carbon dioxide only during production and incineration. Therefore, you must have realized how hazardous plastic use is for our lives.

It is very important to know how our actions and consumption behavior are affecting the environment and ourselves. This is the time when we start being serious over environmental issues. Ozone depletion and global warming have been serious issues. Use of plastics has been identified as one of the major causes for global warming due to heave CO2 emission. We have got leaf plates as significant solution over paper and plastic plates and utensils. Therefore, it is very necessary that we start using leaf plates “tapari” that has great environmental value.

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