Until the end of the last decade, environment-friendly and sustainability were not a deciding factor in our purchases. But now we’ve started seeing the negative effects of plastic disposables on the environment.
So, to help the nature and to protect it, people started choosing earth friendly products for every aspects of their life. They choose areca palm leaf plates over the plastic disposable plates.This article will focus on the areca palm leaf plates manufacturing process.
Eco plates are available in the following materials in the market.
People prefer areca palm leaf plates for serving foods in temple gatherings, parties, and picnic, mainly because of its simplicity. Their raw material is easily available in local, easy to produce and affordable.
…and the best part is, to source the raw material, you don’t have to cut the trees. The farmers in the areca farms collect the areca sheaths and sends it to the aggregator(popularly known as leaf merchant).
Areca plate manufacturer then approaches these merchants to source the areca sheaths in bulk quantites.
Areca palm tree (Scientific Name: Areca Catechu) grows only in the tropical climate areas. Farmers cultivate Areca palm tree mainly for the betel nuts(aka areca nut) that these trees produce.
India is the leading producer of areca nuts and has the most significant number of areca palm trees cultivated area. Countries like Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam also produces areca nuts.
The chewing of areca nuts with the betel leaf is a tradition in India ad is believed to be in practice at least from 1000 ago.
Some chew the combination of areca nuts, betel leaves(said to have medicinal benefits when used alone) along with Tobacco flakes. The harvested betelnut has fibrous husk in the outer layer.
After removing the fibrous covering, the nut is usually sun-dried for 45 -60 days. The nut becomes hard and turns dark brown after drying. People consume areca nut without drying too.
Supari manufacturers use areca nut for manufacturing supari.
In India, the Arecanut palm tree grows only in high rainfall areas and requires a temperature level ranging from 14–36 degrees Celsius.
There are eight different varieties of Arecanut palm trees cultivated in India for the betel nuts. The variety has to be selected based on the geographical area of cultivation.
For Coastal areas, they recommend “Sreevardhana” variety. It grows tall and produces round areca nuts.
According to the data from Dasd (Directorate of Arecanut and Spices Development) areca palm tree has been total cultivated area was 5,18,710 hectare in year 2018.
The total yield for the same year was 901.78 tonnes. Karnataka has a large number of areca palm tree cultivation(2,79,460 hectares) among other Indian states. Also the state contributes a large percent of bet,el nuts to the Indian market.
An areca palm tree sheds five to six leaves in a year. These leaves were once considered an agro-waste and simply thrown away or burned by the areca farmers.
In the recent years the sheaths have gained significant importance and has gained commercial value. After trimming off the leaf from the sheath, farmers collect the sheaths, bundles them and sends it to areca leaf plates manufacturer.
The sheaths are soaked in the fresh water for 20 minutes. A soft brush is used to scrub away dust and the sand particles in the sheath. Then the sheaths are allowed to drain the water and taken for pressing with little amount of moisture in it.
The plate making unit consists of upper and bottom pressing heads. These pressing heads contains electric coil inside and this coil heats up the pressing heads. The temperature for the pressing heads are set based on the size of the plates.
Smaller the size of the plates, lower the temparature. For example, a 6-inch square plate pressing unit will be set to 60 and 50 degree celcius for the upper and bottom pressing heads respectively, while a 10″ square will need 80 and 70 degree celcius for upper and bottom heads. This will vary for different machine.
The areca sheath is put between these pressing heads and tightly pressed and thus the sheaths get the shape of the plate. The pressing head also contains cutting blades in the edges which cuts out the plate from the sheath.
The important fact to note here is, there is NO chemical or any synthetic binders used in the manufacturing process.
The contents of the plates are as it is what they were in the Areca sheath. So, it doesn’t release any of its constituents to the food, whether it is hot or cold.
After pressing the sheath into plates, the remain portions in the sheath are considered agro-waste waste. Units that produce vermicompost take these leftover areca palm sheaths and compost it into vermicompost.
After pressing the areca sheath into a plate, factories employ labor to grade the palm leaf plates manually. After grading, the edges of the palm leaf dishes are sanded to give a smooth and beautiful finish, followed by scrubbing.
This process removes all the spots of dirt and sand dust from the plates. A small level of moisture is enough for the molds to grow on the plates.
So, before packing the plates, it has to be completely dry, free from moist and cured using ultraviolet rays and will prevent the molds and microbes from building up on the plate.
Then the Areca palm leaf plates are usually packed using shrink wrap and sent to the customers.
37th GST council meeting held on 20th September, at Goa, decided to Nil the GST for Plates and cups made up of leaves/ flowers/bark. Before that GST rate for Areca plates was 5%. The council made the GST to nil, because the Govt wants to boost the consumption of eco-friendly products.
Palm leaf plates hs code: 46021990
Rathi co-founded CrozBorder Exports in the year 2017 and deals with manufacturing, consolidating and supplying eco-friendly products(Areca plates) to global customers.