Economic advancement of current society affects to the way of life of people making them to be in hurry to be on time and keep up with unavoidable competition. Consequently, they often buy food for eating. People are similar with food contained in plastic bags, foam boxes, or plastic boxes. However, most consumers have never realized on danger hidden in inappropriate containers, i.e., danger from contamination of containers may cause cancer after exposing for long period. Importantly, it may cause environmental pollution because these wastes of packages are unable to be recycled and 70% of them are disposed by incineration causing carbon dioxide and other kinds of toxic leading to greenhouse effect. Another 30% of wastes of packages will contaminate with natural environment with long period of degradation, for example, foam containers spend 500 – 1,000 years for degradation and plastic containers spend 100 – 450 years for degradation. Consequently, they become an environmental problem against living creatures.
The Research Project on Design, Development, and Processing of Betal Nut Container Products of Princess of Naradhiwas University led by Assist. Prof. Somkiat Sutthiyapiwat et al., has been sponsored by The Thailand Research Fund or TRF since 2020. The beginning of this project started from surveying communities with natural materials and it was found that Pron Sub-District in Tak Bai District, Narathiwat Province, had a large number of betal nut trees. Besides using betal nuts for dyeing, betal nuts that were useless in the past became the important fund for increasing income of this community.
At Ban Wat Mai, Pron Sub-District, this community is already strong with assembly under the name of Housewife Conservation Group. Therefore, the research project promotes production of Betal Nut Containers that are developed as OTOP products with eco-friendly image and conservation of Thainess. In addition, these products also have biodegradable property without causing any pollution to environment while reducing greenhouse effect and adding value to local products efficiently. This is considered as enhancement of standard of packaging design. Currently, Women Power of Pron Community Enterprise managing Betal Nut Containers has 31 members with sponsorship on their office that is also the production site, i.e., Wat Napha Ram (Wat Mai). This community enterprise has been continuously operated to reach the third year leading to popularity on Thai products with health safety and conservation of local wisdom. It helps to strengthen community enabling local people to rely on themselves and promote development of local economy sustainably.
Packaging products from betal nuts under Chaw Pron Brand are produced by cutting dried betal nuts fallen from their trees and collected by villagers in demanded shape before soaking in water for softening. After soaking, these betal nuts are cleaned and rinsed with water for three times before leaving for drying and molding with the heat of 100 – 120 degrees Celsius by using electric pneumatic extrusion machine operated through heat system. This machine was developed and controlled by The Research Project on Design, Development, and Processing of Betal Nut Container Products of Princess of Naradhiwas University. When Betal Nut Containers are completely dried, they will be strong. With molds that are developed in various formats, various product shapes are obtained including products with square shape, circular shape, and bowls that can contain solid food without leakage. These products are able to contain both cold and hot food and they are also biodegradable naturally.
Betal Nut Containers that are highly preferred by consumers in southern border provinces, especially government agencies holding meetings in this area and customers from neighboring countries like Malaysia. These products are preferred to be used in parties although they are more expensive than foal or plastic containers around 7-8 times. They are preferred among consumers who pay attention to environment as well as customers who want to use these containers for their organizational image. With insufficient productivity and seasonal materials, these products are insufficient for demands of market. However, since there is also a large amount of natural betal nut trees in other southern border provinces, there are several communities that can product Betal Nut Containers besides Pron Sub-District, for example, Malee Ecoware by Betal Nut Container Occupational Group from Sai Khao Community in Khok Phoe District, Pattani Province and Ban Na Kor Youth Group in Aiyoeweng Sub-District, Betong District, Yala Province, etc.