The Carbon Footprint of Chopstickschina waste

Most people don’t think twice about the cheap pair of wooden chopsticks they get when they purchase some sort of Asian food. In fact, being able to handle chopsticks effectively is an accomplishment; especially for Westerners. However, it is estimated that in China alone 45 billion chopsticks end up in the landfill every year. Better options exist, from the standpoint of the environment, but financial concerns are still paramount.

BYOC – Bring your Own Chopsticks

The BYOC movement is growing all across the Asian continent, but it is a slow growing force. Some companies have met the challenge by developing folding chopsticks that are easy to carry anywhere.

Among other options are disposable chopsticks made from cornstarch, which decomposes quickly. The problem with such innovations is that the chopsticks cost double what traditional wooden disposable chopsticks do. Small restaurants on limited budgets can’t afford to make the investment. Plastic chopsticks which can be washed only require an initial investment, and bamboo chopsticks eliminate the issues of deforestation.

Financial Implications

Decreasing the use of disposable chopsticks makes sense from the ecological standpoint. From the financial standpoint, however, the impact will be just as significant. It is estimated that 300,000 people work in the industry, bringing in $200 million dollars of income. Simply terminating the production of wooden chopsticks would have serious consequences.

World Wide Struggle

China isn’t the only country that uses chopsticks, disposable or not. Westerners who purchase take out Asian food often find chopsticks in their bags, whether they wanted them or not. Since wood travels to China from as far away as the United States, Canada and the UK to be made in to chopsticks, the problem is essentially global.

The next time you go in to an Asian restaurant and are asked if you want chopsticks for your meal, what will you say? You can start by asking if they have something other than disposable chopsticks for you to use. You can purchase a few sets to keep at home and take them with you when you dine. You can even use a fork and knife, and, while it may be less authentic, you can rest easy knowing you are doing your part for the planet.

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