Plans to Travel Asia? Bring Your Own Chopsticks

If you’re jetting off to Japan, make sure you pack an extra pair of chopsticks.

Every year, the average Japanese person chucks 200 pairs of disposable chopsticks. With 127 million people living in the country that’s a whopping 25.4 billion sets in total per year – or the equivalent to 90,000 tonnes of wood.

Japan has already outlawed the production of chopsticks within their own country and instead have them imported from China where it’s reported they’re made mostly from bamboo or timber that would otherwise be discarded. Or is it a move to shift the effects of mass logging to another country? A country where around 45 billion sets of chopsticks are made therefore must surely have some impact on deforestation.

But it’s when the chopsticks are used only once that the use of disposable chopsticks becomes a crying shame.

Chopsticks for the dump

In an effort to curb waste of the wood The Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries in Japan is planning on introducing special recycling bins to collect disposable chopsticks and turn them into bio-fuel, making the world’s first true eco cutlery.

Toyohisa Aoyama of The Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries said, ‘We will look at the pluses and minuses – including greenhouse gas emissions – of the process of collecting the chopsticks, carrying them to facilities and then producing the biofuel.”

If feasible, they want to get the project underway soon and hope to make the biofuel by mixing the wasted chopsticks with waste paper to produce wood pellet fuel. Japan already has a number of working plants that process the pellets so at least they seem to know what they’re doing.

In the long term, Japanese officials believe this will reduce their dependence on oil from the Middle East and lessen their impact on global warming.

The best thing though is for the residents of Japan and China to keep a plastic set of multiple use chopsticks in their bag and simply wash them under the tap once they’re done.

In fact, a scheme in China called Bring Your Own Chopsticks is going very successfully where people are rewarded with a free soup or discount when they flash their sticks. The power of the word FREE is quite amazing.

Maybe us knork (knife and fork) eaters should take note and start packing our own cutlery; well, we need to start doing something about the overabundance of the useless plastic crap that’s infiltrating every café, bar and restaurant.

Check out US site Bring Your Own for other recycling pointers.