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For those that aren’t very deft at handling chopsticks, now there’s a good reason to opt for the reusable fork instead. In the latest news of ecological disaster in China, the country’s taste for disposable wooden chopsticks is threatening its forests. China uses an astounding 80 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks per year to feed more than 1.3 billion people. The country chops down 20 million mature trees annually to fuel the habit, and China’s forestry leaders have acknowledged that it will have to transition to a different type of cutlery.
As recently as 2009, Chinese officials estimated that the country was producing about 57 billion pairs of chopsticks annually — enough to require cutting down 1.18 million square meters of forest — but the most recent estimates show a spike in disposable chopstick production. “We must change our consumption habits and encourage people to carry their own tableware,” Bo Guangxin, chairman of Jilin Forestry Industry Group, told delegates at the National People’s Congress. The news even prompted talk of adopting the fork, a suggestion that isn’t likely to be well received in communities across China.
Chinese president Hu Jintao announced in 2009 that China plans to increase its forest cover 40 million hectares by 2020, but continued use of disposable chopsticks could prevent the country from reaching that goal. Reducing the use of disposable wooden chopsticks across China would relieve pressure on forests in China and abroad. As The Telegraph reports, China is currently the world’s #1 importer of wood, and the country even imports chopsticks from the US.
Second photo by i_yudai