From fallen leaves to dinnerware

The GPMU produces 2,000 units of products in a day and supplies them throughout the entire country

Fallen leaves of areca-nut trees (Doma) are collected from farmers, washed with clean water, and then compressed to different shapes using a heat press to turn into eco-friendly biodegradable disposable dining wares. 

This practice has now become almost a daily routine at the Green Products Manufacturing Unit (GPMU) in Gelephu, which started as a family dream about a decade ago in 2012. The GPMU produces 2,000 units of products in a day and supplies them throughout the entire country. 

The Unit’s founder, Deepika Neopaney said the products are food safe, 100% biodegradable, an ideal substitute for plastic, and help in reducing import dependency. 

She said the products are developed with a new innovative idea of heat moulding sheaths of fallen areca leaves which is widely practiced and used in South India. 

The company manufactures eco-friendly biodegradable disposable dining wares, namely plates, cups, bowls, and other innovative products from sheaths attached to the shredded leaves of areca nut (betel nut) trees. 

Their products include 10” round plate, 10” partition plate, square partition plate, packaging containers, 8” round plate, 7” round plate, 4” bowl, square bowl, and spoons. 

“Our products are an ideal biodegradable substitute for plastic and thermocol disposable plates and cups as each kilogram of thermocol creates 6kg of CO2 emission,” she said, adding that plastic waste is one of the biggest environmental challenges faced by the entire world today. 

 “We intend to help the challenge faced by our country and the entire world. We are a small drop in the ocean and we are doing our part in a small way, “said Deepika Neopaney. 

She added that the excellent feature of this industry is that all the products are manufactured out of naturally fallen areca nut leaves and no trees are cut, making it efficiently environment friendly and sustainable. 

Additionally, Deepika Neopaney said the products are great with hot food and liquids, making them easy to serve, microwaveable, and freezer safe. 

Moreover, she said their products are also customized, and they have embossed or imprint products as per the requirement of the clients.

Deepika Neopaney said the demand for the products initially was less given the price of the products being higher than plastic plates.

“However, people are now eco-conscious and our products are appreciated by a large number of satisfied customers and have a huge demand,” she said. 

The founder also said that it provides extra income to the farmers as they purchase the areca nut sheaths from them, especially housewives. 

Further, Deepika Neopaney said the hard and waterproof areca nut leaves accumulate water, creating a perfect breeding place for parasites like mosquitoes which can cause malaria and dengue, which is a huge health problem in the southern Dzongkhags.

‘Our initiative provides a solution for controlling the spread of diseases due to parasitic mosquitoes,” she added. 

The company is thankful to the Loden Foundation, United Nations Development Programme, Bhutan, and the Department of Cottage and Small Industry for their support in helping the company acquire a new machine. 

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu