Jatrabari resident Tania Akhtar first saw plates made of fallen sheath of betel nut leaves in a cooking class last year.
She wanted to buy an Areca leaf plate from one of her classmates, but she refused to sell it to her.
The lady asked Tania to buy at least 30 plates or none.
Three days later, Tania found out about Bright Areca Limited, a company that sells Areca leaf cutleries, and bought 20 plates for only Tk180.
Ever since, Tania hasn't looked back.
Tania took pictures of the plates she bought and uploaded them on her own Facebook page in December 12, 2019 and made a profit within two months. She is happy because people are now more aware about biodegradable plates.
Recently, The Business Standard reached out to Imran Hossein, director of Bright Areca Limited, to discuss the environment-friendly products.
Recalling the early days, Imran said they started the venture due to the very real and tangible threat of climate change.
"People across the world have been putting more effort to reduce pollution. Many have started to cut plastic from their lives and are trying to bring back biodegradable materials," he said.
As single-use leaf plates are popping up across the world, founders of Bright Areca thought it would be a profitable venture.
Imran went to Tamil Nadu to receive training on manufacturing these plates.
After his return, Bright Areca began its production in 2018 and started selling the plates from January 2019.
Imran also explained the manufacturing process: first the natural Areca leaf sheaths are collected and washed in freshwater. Then the leaves go into automated machines for heat pressing and cutting. The edges are trimmed and the plates are then cleaned, sterilised, shrink-wrapped and sent to be sold.
In the beginning Imran wanted the business to be completely export-oriented, as he thought Bangladeshi people would not be interested in these products.
But as he started selling, he was surprised to see the demand for the products.
"As long as there is a market for these products in Bangladesh, I do not plan to export. Once I have fulfilled the demand of the domestic market, I will think about foreign markets," Imran said.
Right now, with eight machines, two of which are locally made, Imran is not being able to meet the demand. On average, they only make 500 plates per week.
Currently, Bright Areca only has three dealers, based in Dhaka. Once in a while, the company supplies plates to various celebrations and ceremonies.
These plates are also available in Meena Bazar, Unimart and Jamuna Future Park.
Imran said the products are 100% natural, biodegradable, compostable, oven-safe, water-resistant and can hold both hot & cold liquids, freezer safe and do not react with food or liquid when used.
These are coated with essence of neem leaves to ensure they are pest-free.
Bright Areca advises consumers to use the cutlery as single-use, in case of food that is liquid or has the consistency of gravy.
"But if the plates are only used to hold dry food, they can be washed and used multiple times," Imran added.
They can be washed like normal plates and should be left on a rack to dry.
Bright Areca is currently the only company in Bangladesh that produces these plates.
"We do not have any competitors," Imran said adding that the company is helping another entrepreneur in Noakhali to set up a factory.
"In future, I hope to spread this across the country, so the environment is benefitted," he added.