How Coconut vendors ​of Tamil Nadu Beating Plastic Pollution? | Garv Hai - Stories of Change | Swachh Survekshan 2019

How Coconut vendors ​of Tamil Nadu Beating Plastic Pollution?

Let’s hope many more take a leaf out of these sellers’ books and adopt such innovative ways to reduce plastic usage.

January 1, 2019, marked a step in the sustainable direction for Tamil Nadu, as a state-wide plastic ban came into effect.

While this ban has certainly struck down heavily on manufacturers and dealers, there is a certain section of vendors who are turning heads with local alternatives.

It is common news that mandarai, banana and betel nut leaves and plates are gaining popularity for food packaging. But a few humble tender coconut sellers from the southern part of the state have found an innovative alternative to replace plastic straws.

Can you guess what it is?

Do you Papaya?

Thangam Pandiyan, a resident of Madurai and an organic farming enthusiast was quite intrigued by choice of a seller to use papaya stalk to serve fresh, cool tender coconut at Maravankulam bus stop.

Image courtesy: Thangam/Facebook

An organic farmer himself, Thangam shares that in addition to papaya, most kinds of grass can be used for this purpose. “There are very few plants with a hollow stalk like that of a papaya’s. If you take corn stalk it has a spongy filling inside, which makes it unfit to be used as a straw. However, we do have the hardy sugarcane grass known as naanal in Tamil (botanical name: Saccharum arundinaceum), and plain old straw (vaikol in Tamil), can also be used to serve the purpose,” he says.

Basking with the Bamboo

Yet another seller has come up with an innovative idea, and this time it is from the picturesque town of Tenkasi in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district. Surrounded by the Western Ghats, this town is as green as Tamil Nadu, a state on the wrong side of the ghats can hope to get.

J Shanmuga Nathan, a resident of Tenkasi, tells us about the now famous tender coconut seller near the Essar Petrol pump between Tenkasi and Idaikal for his bamboo straws.

“Just right across the other side road, he found plenty of Bamboo stems which he thought the make straws out. From one bamboo he can make about 6 to 10 such straws,” says Shanmuga Nathan.

“Bamboo added its unique flavour to the tender coconut. It was quite refreshing,” he adds.

While Shanmuga Nathan is in awe by the tender coconut seller’s idea, he also shares that the plastic ban is a move that has to be welcomed. “People are switching to greener alternatives. Earlier we had groceries packed with paper and jute strings. Today, most of the pollution is done by big corporate brands. The ban will be meaningful only if these brands are made to find other alternatives,” he adds.


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