Leaf Plus, an idea that sparked during a nostalgic conversation about “tapari momo” inan alumni reunion meet turned into a business enterprise that spearheaded the adoption of modern techniques in the age-old tradition of using leaves to make disposable plates and bowls. The Leaf Plus team went the extra mile and madedishware out of areca leaves for an efficient, eco-friendly, and sustainable way of consuming food.
There is a significant demand for disposable plates in Nepal, especially during marriages, ceremonies, and casual parties. This accompanied by a growing street-food scene meant increasing demand for disposable plates. However, the market is floodedwith plates either made of plastic or paper.
A novel way to penetrate the sector and carve a niche, according to Leaf Plus, was to launch biodegradable leaf plates on a massive scale.
A walk around the old markets of Ason and Maru reveals that most of the biodegradable plates available in Kathmandu Valley are made of leaves of sal trees (Shorea robusta)which when stitched with small bamboo sticks are neither sturdy nor able to hold liquid.
In came Leaf Plus with their range of disposable areca leaf plates and cutleries inspired by similar production in the southern states of India. These leaf dishware are biodegradable, chemical-free, leakage proof and microwavable. Their products havegotten a lot of traction and are being carried in all the big supermarket outlets from Bhatbhateni to Salesberry.
An estimated 30 million areca leaves shed off each year in the eastern areas of Nepal which can be used for manufacturing around 16 million leaf plates. There are various other plants such as palm, black pepper which are grown beneath the areca tree. The shedding of leaves obstructs the growth of these trees. The farmers now collect the leaves and supply to Leaf Plus thereby increasing the yield from other trees as well. Leaf Plus also focuses on women empowerment by employing women in the factoryand providing them with training, machines, and helping with making quality products.
What started with five varieties of plates has now expanded to more than 16 varieties including cutleries. When asked why they started this venture, the founders resonate that the immediate change that we wanted to see was minimizing the use of plastic by providing eco-friendly options for consuming food items.
Leaf Plus is one of the beneficiaries of the COVID-19 MSME Fund Nepal, supported by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation – SDC and FMO – Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank, and managed by One to Watch (OTW). With the help of the fund, Leaf Plus was able to receive an interest-free and collateral-free loan from Nabil Bank, which was mainly utilized to purchase raw materials for production and meet their working capital needs.
OTW also aims to provide tailored business development services to Leaf Plus and intends to help the company in record keeping and marketing to penetrate new markets and geographies.