So, what exactly do you do with 45 billion pairs of chopsticks? If you have an idea, the government of China would love to hear from you.
Residents of the People’s Republic of China produce 45 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks each year, or 130 million pairs each day, according to Los Angeles Times, which reported on the story earlier this week.
The problem? Made from birch and poplar, China’s disposable chopsticks bring down about 100 acres of forests every day, estimates Greenpeace China. That’s 16 to 25 million trees felled each year for a single-use utensil. Across the East China Sea, Japan uses more than 20 billion disposable chopsticks annually, nearly 97 percent of which come from China.
In fact, for a brief time back in the 80’s, one American company tried to cash in on Japan’s penchant for hariwashi, as the throw-away chopsticks are called. At the cost of more than $3 million, the town of Hibbing, Minn. (better known as Bob Dylan’s hometown) attempted to make and export chopsticks made from local aspen forests. The factory failed and closed two years later, crushing townspeople’s hopes of providing jobs and dominating the Japanese disposable eating utensils market.
Still, back in China, officials have been trying numerous measures for more than a decade to rein their country’s growing appetite for convenience and dining-on-the-run. The government has instituted taxes on the sticks and plenty of citizens – concerned about deforestation of China’s forests – have attempted to convince their compatriots to stick with “real” chopsticks through humorous ad campaigns. Opponents of those efforts insist the chopsticks are important to the economy and argue the country’s disposable stick factories employ 100,000 in economically depressed areas.
So, the next time you pick up a pint of Kung Pao chicken to-go, ask yourself, “Wo zhēn de xūyào yīcìxìng kuàizi?” Do I really need disposable chopsticks?
Sunday, August 22, 2010
What's killing our forests? 45 billion pairs of chopsticks.
From the Houston Chronicle: