Chopstick Demand Threatens China’s Forests

The disposable chopstick demand in China is so great that the country’s forest can no longer keep up.

Jilin Forestry Industry Group chairman Bo Guangxin said he is concerned about the future of China’s forests. Since approximately 80 billion disposable chopsticks are used every year, he believes there simply aren’t enough trees to keep up with demand.

“We must change our consumption habits and encourage people to carry their own tableware,” Bo Guangxin explained. He added that only 4,000 chopsticks can be manufactured from a single tree.

The chairman also suggested that restaurants start giving customers metal knives and forks in an effort to keep disposable chopstick demands to a minimum.

In addition to the 80 million chopsticks utilized by Chinese residents, the country also exports around 15 billion pairs to Japan and South Korea. Millions of poplar, birch, and bamboo trees are destroyed as a direct result of the high demand.

The Chinese government attempted to slow the manufacturing of chopsticks by imposing a five percent tax on the utensils. However, the tax did little to cut down on the high number of disposable chopsticks used by residents every year.

Bo Guangxin explained to parliament on Friday that nearly 20 million 20-year-old trees will be needed to meet the demand for chopsticks in China this year. Although China plans to increase forest coverage by 2020, the chairman feels that chopsticks could ultimately derail these efforts.

Some companies in the United States have started producing chopsticks and exporting them to China. Georgia Chopsticks said in 2011 that it was producing two million pairs every day. Owner Jae Lee had hoped to increase that amount exponentially over the next few years.

China is currently the world’s leading consumer of wood. Environmental Investigation Agency said last year that the country’s demand for foreign wood has tripled since 2000.

What do you think about the high demand for chopsticks in China? Do you think residents should switch to metal utensils to help protect the country’s forests?

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