Turns out that disposable chopsticks are an environmental nightmare

Turns out that disposable chopsticks are an environmental nightmare

Sticky situation: eating implements create environmental problems (Image: Mykl Roventine)

Toronto loves Asian food. Witness the city’s endless supply of sushi restaurants and packed Chinese eateries— declared some of the best in North America. But all that glory and love comes with a hefty price: the burgeoning ecological disaster that is the disposable chopstick. In China, a jaw-dropping 100 acres of trees are felled per day to keep up with demand for the disposable utensils, according to Greenpeace China. That works out to about 16 to 25 million trees per year.

The situation has become so serious that the Chinese government—the same body that has done pretty much nothing to curb greenhouse gas emissions—has actually taken steps to cut back on chopsticks. The country is being predictably vague in how it intends to deal with the problem, saying only, “Companies making disposable chopsticks will face local government restrictions aimed at decreasing the use of the throwaway utensil.” Change could be a long time coming, considering that around 100,000 people are employed by China’s chopstick industry. Not only that, but disposable chopsticks cost about a penny apiece, while sterilizing and reusing chopsticks could cost anywhere from 15 to 70 cents each.

Some foresighted tree huggers have already initiated the BYOC (bring your own chopsticks) movement in an attempt to cut down on chopstick waste. It has yet to take hold in Toronto, so those of us eating here can either start our own chopstick revolution or suffer the ding to our street cred and just use a metal fork.

China’s fight against disposable chopsticks [L.A. Times]