Saturday, 28 January 2012

Paper Banana Leaves in Restaurants; Progress Gone Wrong

A local (Malaysian) Indian restaurant has decided to serve food on PAPER banana leaves! Today's THE STAR, page 3!

Why do I feel people are moving backwards in Malaysia? I don't peg myself for a tree hugger, but this is just too embarrassing to ignore.

The point of banana leaves is that they are biodegradable. Our forefathers in India knew that. Hence its widespread priority as a use-and-throw "plate". The leaf also accentuates aromas and taste. Nasi lemak packagers all over Malaysia know that. If the leaves are scarce, grow more banana trees, with your fellow restaurantiers! The last time I checked, Malaysia was near the equator.

If it is too expensive to clean leaves individually, clean them the way they do in India; Each customer is given a cup of water and it's sprinkled on the leaf. This is then shrugged off the leaf or wiped off it, by the customer.

Indians and their culture have always been seen to promote green living - and not by way of building multi-million dollar structures that harness solar power via large panels, or hybrid cars that cost the user an arm and a leg. Like other old cultures around the world, India boasts self cooling mud huts that keep inhabitants cool in hot climates, green bean body scrubs that don't cause chemical soap suds to flow into sewers and voila, the humble banana leaf to eat on!

The spokesperson of the restaurant claims that the paper leaves are biodegradable. True, if the leaves are NOT placed in a landfill for 2.5 months, which is the time the "paper" leaf needs to decompose. By using the term "biodegradable" very loosely, it is sometimes a little easy to avoid scrutiny. A real definition of biodegradable is available at

How profit driven my Malaysian brothers have become, scares me! Sadly, I feel that if this restaurant has its way, soon others in Malaysia will follow, citing the first restaurant as a precedent. Progress, this isn't!

The article on the use of paper leaves in The Star, pg. 3