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  • Published in Arts Review

The Dragons' Den is slickly produced, intelligently formatted and usually watchable. And just occasionally it offers profound insight into the failures of capitalism.

Adejare Doherty, a former barrister, arrived on the programme asking for a £120,000 investment for 10 percent of his Wholeleaf Company.

He was brandishing his Areca Palm leaf plates - disposable picnic packs and disposable dishes which were apparently organic, recycled, low carbon and biodegradable.

More than 600 million Areca Palm are growing in India and the top leaf is disposed of as industrial waste or burned.

Soaking them in local natural streams and steam pressing them turns them into attractive, wood effect bowls and platters perfect for the catering industry.

The process could replace the tree felling, pulping and bleaching which makes disposable plates and, according to Adejare, create 300,000 jobs in poverty stricken India.

The company website adds: "By buying Wholeleaf products you are helping to employ people in rural parts of India in a job that provides them with fair wages and good working conditions."

Dragon Theo Paphitis concludes this section of the programme by remarking: "Do you not agree that this product is unbelievable. It ticks all the right boxes. It's waste. It's absolute waste."


Deborah Meaden, the only female dragon, earlier stated: "I'm very pro finding alternatives to this pretty unpleasant stuff that we make our disposable plates."

And yet investors there were none. Adejare was caught in a Catch 22 nightmare only capitalism can produce.

He did not have enough customers to buy in bulk and drive down the price. He could not get more customers until he does drive down the price.

Sainsbury's sell his picnic set for £4.99. Yet his company is supplying them at cost, at £2.02p and therefore there is no immediate profit.

If he could buy in the millions the plates would cost him just £1 so that he would be making 100 percent profit over his investment.

So what happened to the Green Dragons? They apparently do not exist. Meaden was at least honest in putting naked profit before 300,000 jobless people in India and the environment.

She said: "I love this bit it's got a fundamental problem. People last year were happy to pay a premium for environmental and organic produce.

"But what's happened in this market place is people are less inclined as they run back to price. Therefore to get your 50 or 60 million in this climate is going to be one hell of a tall order."