Sustainability

Ayamany Sinakalai

Malaysian eco-entrepreneur Ayamany Sinakalai pioneered an environmentally friendly solution to our disposable plastic-tableware problem with Fallaleaf, whose success all across Asia-Pacific is set to hit European shores

Profile


Ayamany Sinakalai is the founder of Fallaleaf, an eco-friendly disposable tableware line made from dry sheaths of fallen areca palm leaves. A pioneer in the biodegradable tableware market, the homegrown brand has grown to Singapore, Vietnam, Korea and Australia, with plans to venture into Europe next.

Hi inspiration came from his childhood on a rubber estate in Tampin, Negeri Sembilan, when his grandmother would carefully wrap his meals in palm leaves for him to take to school, and use banana leaves as dinner plates. As an adult, he got to work on finding an environmentally friendly solution to eradicate the plastic or polystyrene plates and cups, which he often saw littering drains and roadsides during community clean-ups in his neighbourhood.

Employing his engineering know-how, Sinakalai devised a prototype machine to try and convert fallen palm leaves into dinnerware. After years of trial and error, he perfected the machines and manufacturing process, producing microwave- and oven-safe, high-quality eco-friendly tableware made without any harmful chemicals. In 2012, he opened a factory in Puchong, Selangor with just four machines to commercialise Fallaleaf’s product; the company and product were ahead of their time when being “green” wasn’t yet a rallying cry in the business world.

In the beginning, Sinakalai and his daughter Kartigha, who is in charge of Fallaleaf’s operations and business development, had an uphill battle to convince supermarkets to promote and sell their wares. After toiling long and hard, they managed to get most larger stores on board, and now they also provide to caterers, party planners and cafés. Besides manufacturing, the company also empowers small-time plantation farmers in rural areas where palm trees grow copiously, providing them with an incentive and side income for each collected fallen leaf.

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