Each year the people of China go through roughly 45 billion pairs of throwaway chopsticks; that averages out to nearly 130 million pairs every day. Add the export market’s additional 18 billion pairs annually, and that requires roughly 16 million to 25 million felled trees each year. Deforestation is one of China’s gravest environmental problems, leading to soil erosion, famine, flooding, carbon dioxide release, desertification and species extinction. In June, 2010, China’s Ministry of Commerce issued this statement: “Companies making disposable chopsticks will face local government restrictions aimed at decreasing the use of the throwaway utensil…”
But there are objections to the demise of the disposable chopstick: the wooden chopsticks industry employs 100,000 people in China’s forested regions, and restaurants object to the higher costs required to sterilize reusable utensils. Disinfection of wooden chopsticks is never a part of the manufacturing or packaging process, and the porosity of wood helps harbor manufacturing chemicals such as sulfur and hydrogen peroxide. Reusable chopsticks are usually made from melamine resin and there is concern that melamine and formaldehyde will to migrate into the food, but studies investigating melamine migration into warm foods have found no violation of regulated limits. Food-grade stainless steel chopsticks are an option, but are not always “tooth-friendly”.
If you like to eat Asian, consider getting your own personal chopsticks. Our Japanese chopsticks in matching carrying cases (with whimsical dragonflies, cranes, and floral motifs) travel easily in your purse or backpack. At home or when dining out, create an impression with this simply elegant accessory!