Elderly Group Makes Leaf Plates for Green-Conscious Vendors

Photos: Jor Jaan Jai Dee / Facebook

LOEI — A group of elderly citizens and craftsmen with disabilities are selling biodegradable leaf plates for extra income during the coronavirus pandemic – and helping the environment at the same time.

All of them are employed by a brand called Jor Jaan Jai Dee in Loei province, where they turn leaf plates from local flora into food containers, providing a side hustle for stay-at-home grandparents and those living with disabilities.

 “As COVID-19 spread, the elderly and disabled had to be separated from their children and grandchildren, so many people had their income affected,”  Niracha Wongmasa, one of the brand’s founders, said Wednesday. The shop sells the leaf plates at 2 baht each.

“I think this project helps create some extra income and eases worry during this time, and even helps save the environment in the process,” he said.

The plates are made by covering leaves or tree husks with starch and using a compressing machine. They have been increasingly popular in Thailand for several years as an alternative to foam and paper plates. 

Jor Jaan Jai Dee’s Facebook page have been posting stories of some of their producers, such as a grandpa and grandma who collect Bodhi leaves from their local temple every time they visit to make plates. 

One post tells of a man with a mental illness who usually stays home all day with his mother, except for doctor’s visits. The leaf plate project, the post said, gave him something to concentrate and work on, improving his moods and social life. 

Plates are made from local tree species, such as betel palm, areca nut palm, chaad (Dipterocarpus obtusifolius), tong kwao (bastard teak), sak (teak), bamboo, corn husks, and so on. The leaves are washed, sun-dried, sewn, covered with cassava starch, and compressed with a machine. 

Gathering fallen leaves in order to make extra income also prevents them from being burned as part of slash-and-burn farming, prevalent in the north. 

They can hold both dry food and wet food, such as rard naa noodles and yum salads. The plates can be reused two to six times.