Coinciding with 110th National day celebration on December 17, Pemathang gewog of Samdrupcholing, Samdrupjongkhar inaugurated machines to produce cups and plates from areca nut leaf sheaths.
The machines were set up by the gewog office together with Samdrupjongkhar Initiative (SJI) as one of the waste management initiatives to replace plastics as a climate solution.
Pemathang Gup, Madhukar Subba, said the gewog office purchased the machines through gewog development grant (GDG). The total budget for the machines is about Nu 600,000.
He said the machines were handed over to a women’s cooperative, Pemathang Aumsu Tshogpa and the funds generated through the sale of products will be used by the cooperative. “They will also have to look after the maintenance of the machines.”
The gup said that the SJI trained the members to operate the machines.
He said that the machines were kept in the gewog centre at the moment but will be shifted. “We have kept the budget in the 12th Plan and the gewog has also identified the area.”
The gup said that plastic plates and cups were used widely in the country during gatherings, polluting the environment. “It’s time to stop using plastic by introducing products produced using areca nut leaf sheaths.”
He said they intend to supply the areca nut plates and mugs during festivals in Samdrupjongkhar. “It will also have health benefit because it will help stop malaria outbreak from the water permeated in the sheaths.”
While they might face difficulty selling the products initially, he said that one of the companies in Barpeta in Assam, India, promised to help sell the products if it does well.
Samdrupjongkhar dzongdag, Tharchen Lhundrup, said that Nu 4 for big plates and Nu 5 for a dozen of small plates are reasonable and sustainable. “We can also sell these products to the neighbouring dzongkhags where there are no areca nut trees.”
A cooperative member, Drupchu Zangmo, 31, said that it takes about 45 minutes to heat the machine and they could make 150 plates and more than 10 dozens of small plates a day.
She said they face challenges to get areca nut sheaths during off seasons and they buy a sheath for 50 Chetrum.
She said they are focusing on protecting the environment by replacing the plastic products and gradually they will focus on generating income. “It is to keep our village free of plastics because it would look clean and beautiful.”
Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupcholing