The world’s banana trees are under assault by a fungal wilt. Now, in addition to saving a nice topping for cereal or addition to your fruit salad, researchers have an even stronger reason to rescue this staple crop: it can replace plastic.

Banana Leaf Technology, an Indian start-up, is applying a proprietary technology to alter the cellular structure of the giant, floppy leaves. The process toughens the leaves’ cell walls so that, instead of wilting after a few days, the altered foliage will hold its structure for as long as three years.

The process also strengthens the leaves so they can be used as packaging that’s strong, flexible, and resists temperature changes. The company says the processed leaves will hold their integrity for up to three years and then can be tossed into a landfill or compost pile to degrade into harmless debris. 

Already, the company makes 30 products from treated banana leaves, from plates and cups to writing paper. It’s ready to license its technology to anyone who wants to use it.

TRENDPOST: Organic replacements for throwaway plastics are being developed from milk, mushrooms, and other sources that can return benignly to nature. The global backlash against the rising tide of eternal plastic waste is creating a market for these technologies that will bring them into the mainstream by 2025.

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