They date back as far as 3000 years; generally Chinese prefer them tapered but blunt while the Japanese favor a more pointed tapered end. They come in pairs and are used for eating in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam as well as Thailand, Laos, Burma, Tibet and Nepal.
When a mate is lost or broken, there are at least 15 alternative uses for the remaining lone wooden or bamboo stick including use as a plant stake, hair bun holder, kabob skewer, or stirring stick.
There is even a popular, easy-to-play piano tune called “Chopsticks,” that when played, the fingers resemble a pair of chopsticks opening and closing. (If you have a really good imagination!)
Although the typical length of a chopstick is between 30 and 40 centimeters, a little longer than a wooden pencil, the “roughly 80 billion chopsticks per year” are resulting in the deforestation of the planet according to the Mar. 14, Washington Post.
Bo Guangxin, the head of a major forestry group, likened China’s use of disposable chopsticks to an addiction. “China uses 20 million trees each year to feed the country’s disposable chopstick habit," Guangxin told Chinese parliamentarians last Friday.
But this is not a new problem. According to the Mar. 13, Time, “China is the largest consumer of wood in the world and uses both domestic and imported timber”. Citing a London-based Environmental Investigation Agency report “Chinese demand for foreign lumber has increased three-fold since 2000 to 180 million cubic meters in 2011.”
China has tried taxing the throw away sticks. In 2006, the country levied a 5 percent tax on disposable chopsticks which had very little impact on the increasing use and popularity of the little sticks that appear to be a bigger threat to the environment than the Chinese government wants people to believe.
Guangxin has called upon the people to use throw away chopsticks less, encouraging them to carry “their own tablewear.”
The next step will be to ask restaurants to replace the disposable chopsticks with knives and forks – that would be a major culture shock!
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