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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Vadalur, Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu, India

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Vadalur, Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu, India
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Registered: November 2014
City/Town/Province: VADALUR
Posts: 1
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(The leaf as a renewable material resource)

Within the industrialized countries there is now recognition of the environmental harm that industrialization has caused. The industrial revolution has increasingly been built upon scarce and polluting fossil resources; synthetic production based material development and use, and an incremental dependence upon non sustainable energy. Making products from renewable resources as a starting point is now recognized as an essential factor to making sustainable products.

Leaves are examples of renewable material resources. Around the world leaves have been and still are used for a huge variety of product purposes among which food packaging. Developing countries like Benin have a rich knowledge in this area which evolved over many generations. The UNEP-WG-SPD with its international network is also aware of several countries (Trinidad, India, Pakistan - and Costa Rica soon) involved with simple leaf plate pressing technology - used for street food. The Netherlands with its substantial agriculture industry can learn from the work being done and the experience available in developing countries.

In fact, although populations from developing countries consider developed countries a model to follow, at village level, they still have a daily life style that supports the preservation of natural resources for the present and for the future. For example, whereas developed countries are doing research to produce biodegradable packaging, populations from developing countries have improved the primitive technology of leaf use to pack food, through cultivation, treatment, etc - biodegradable packaging already exists in everyday life. However, it is also noticeable that, due to urbanization and resulting population density, a scarcity of this traditional packaging method has emerged. As a result environmentally unsound packaging technology from developed countries with more detrimental consequences on environment and human health have been introduced, e.g. the cooking of food in plastic film instead of traditional washed leaves is now practiced and toxins in the plastic migrate to the food. Taking this aspect into consideration, we (developing countries and developed countries) do have to work together to reverse the tendency and promote.

In the following paragraph some of these examples are shown to you. This survey builds upon this research by exploring the potential for future sustainable product development in this exciting area.
Leaves are used to bundle food.. It is rice with chicken, packed in leaves. Besides food there are examples of tea packaged in woven boxes of palm leaf. However in order to package it properly, plastic is used as well. Banana leaves are well known examples of leaves used for various purposes, such as an umbrella or food plate. In order to find out more about Dutch examples a respondent suggests visiting the open air museum in Arnhem which might exhibit historical products made out of leaves.

Biodegradable plastic made out of renewable materials in for example the catering industry. Out of The waste compost can be made if renewable materials are used only. It is expected that, as far. As it seems functional, in the future more often bio plastic (foil) will be used instead of PE en PP.

A Dutch supermarket sells Indonesian food in bamboo baskets, currently in order to keep the food fresh and to meet hygiene regulations; plastic is used inside the basket. The manufacturer is thinking of using banana leaves instead of the plastic. This would require an ultra fresh method. In which the food is made just a few hours before it is sold. Then the production line from manufacture to shop to consumer will become much shorter. Starch and popcorn are used as a buffer material in order to protect the material for fragile items; Corn is also used as an isolation material. In India handbags are made out of coir, jute and textiles.

Baskets are woven out of reed and straw. Sometimes renewable materials, like hemp, jute and flax, are only used to strengthen non-renewable (packaging) materials. Seven respondents recommend introducing leaf packaging on a small scale. As someone indicated: it will not be easy to use leaves in an industrial process in which small un similarities can make the difference between a good and a bad product.

To another respondent it does not seem very likely that leaf packaging can be an alternative to the currently used packaging materials/techniques that are less complicated to develop. It will not be easy to compete with other packaging material. It is not an easy market. Gifts and luxury products shops, but also luxury restaurants and exclusive food shops are given as examples of market niches for the leaf. One respondent thinks it will not work for food purposes.

It is suggested by two respondents to use leaves as a basis material for biopolymers. A packaging material needs to be able to bundle, to protect and to form easily. Leaves used in its original form can probably not be used for packaging purposes on a large scale. One respondent suggests to use leaves as a basis material for paper application is used more and more. Pulp of leaves (excluding nerves) and water can be given several forms, water is pressed out. The material is rough from the outside and soft from the inside.

Examples of current paper products are egg boxes, in the medical world it is used for packaging, bandage cups for hygiene requirements are lower; protective pieces e.g. for television packaging. Most respondents feel the packaging has to fit with the product. So you have to pack natural products into natural packaging material, like sugar in reed for example. You do not package steel into leaves.

Leaf packaging has a nice eco-look and real eco quality to it, so perceived and real impact is nicely consistent. Nevertheless the environmental friendliness of the product needs to be communicated to the consumer for example by means of a product label. You have to offer people something extra so they are going to buy it. It should look good and it should meet our standard.

This has to do with things like an attractive presentation and possibly the hygiene. Bad quality will lower the demand. Good quality will help increasing the demand. Nowadays products are bought for reasons which are hardly functional or rational - so a particular marketing/advertising/product/packaging combination may at a given moment influence cultural perception of products at a mini-scale (see semiotics theory - products are a language of signs). A nice packaging helps the customer over the threshold.

An eco-packaging may reduce the buyer’s sense of guilt of again buying something which is perhaps somewhat useless - I am doing something good as well. The bottom line is that the packaging should reflect the product: if it is a green product, it is allowed to have a green packaging. If the product is not green, a green packaging is fake and misleading.

Packaging is an integrated part of a product and cannot be seen loose from the product. Generally Speaking the consumer is not environmentally aware. Research found out that only for the better-off consumer the economical and environmental aspects are weighed equally. The ordinary consumer is not willing to pay for the environment. According to one respondent a change in thinking with respect to the environment and packaging has taken place in the Netherlands, in which industry has had the biggest role, then well-off consumers and then government.

Right now it is trendy to be natural, people like natural looking products. But you never know no long the set rend last. So you have to make it something more than hype. It should be something classic and lasting.

Snacks in leaves can appeal to customers of exclusive restaurants, - food stores, traitors and other special events like evening markets. As a packing material for products in supermarkets or a shopping mall it will not have a big market. Leaves can give a product a natural look which will attract especially younger and older people.

A leaf can be considered as a system that consists of several sub-systems. Theoretical options can be identified for the use of parts of the leaf, the leaf as a whole and combinations of several of (the same) leaves. Such use options can be combined with various treatment techniques or combinations of techniques.

A distinction can be made e.g. in leaf use without modification (natural use), with partial modification (natural/technical use) or with total modification (technical use). From such an approach, general insights can be gained concerning the whole use of a leaf. This can then be projected upon the actual use of leaf packaging in Benin and (if feasible) in other countries. Thus more detailed knowledge can be gained, on problems and potential solutions as well as on possibilities for improvement.

Basic to any product development process is the product/technology/market combination and how this is commonly dealt with. This is important to consider in order determining whether a prevailing product development process will be developed or whether another approach will be taken.

Examples of leaf applications:

Teak Tree Packed in the leaves of Teak Tree

The teak tree (Tectonic Grandees) grows in tropical areas and is valued for its wood, which is used in cabinet work and shipbuilding. The teak tree is well known in Benin because it provides people with fire-wood for cooking and timber for carpentry and woodwork. It also provides people with leaves. Teak leaves are used to pack many products such as (fermented maize dough), tomatoes, peppers, kola and cooked vegetables.

Banana tree A lot of packed in banana leaf And ready for the

Banana leaves is particularly appreciated by people from the South-west zone of Benin. In their natural state the leaves break easily and are not suitable for packing, but methods have been developed which make the leaves smooth, supple and easy to use.

Sample of fermented maize dough A bag made of polypropylene (left) and a colored
Packed in a combination of leaves. Rapier bag (right) made of edge (a plastic film from
The leaf)

Be sewn together to make larger plates and bowls. Leaf plate product can also be used as packaging for short term storage or shipping of a variety of goods. These products will retain shape and rigidity for long periods if stored in low humidity environment.

Although the initial focus was on leaf packaging for food purposes, the survey was open to information on other leaf (packaging) applications (e.g. leaf plate, soap packaging) and other renewable packaging materials than leaves (e.g. bamboo, jute).

Basically I am from farmer background. My father is a farmer. I have more interest in environmental and gardening. I myself involved in this work and love to service the people regarding the awareness of greens recycling. Instead of using urea medicines, we can use the dry leaves as a natural fertilizer for the plants. It does give a good growth to the plants and also save the soil and because of this natural fertilization, our environment will clean and we can inhale unpolluted air. I had conducted several seminars regarding this awareness to the people.
· Date: December 5, 2014 · Views: 4640 · File size: 22.0kb, 1328.3kb · : 2560 x 1920 ·
Hours Volunteered: 80
Volunteers: 20
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 20 to 35
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 6
Trash Removed/Recycled from Environment (kg): 3500
Native Trees Planted: 20
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