Restaurant owners and patrons should abandon the use of disposable chopsticks for the good of their health and the environment, an official with the China Cuisine Association (CCA), has said.
Bian Jiang, its secretary-general, recently called on restaurant operators to phase out one-use cutlery, especially wooden chopsticks, in preparation for next year's green Olympics. The country produces and discards more than 45 billion pairs of wooden chopsticks every year, at a cost to the environment of about 25 million trees, Bian said.
"That's a heavy blow to the country's dwindling forests," he said.
"On the run-up to the Olympics, the catering industry should not ignore the green call from the organizing committee for no disposable tableware to be used during the grand feast of national pride."
In a bid to discourage the use of wooden chopsticks and protect timber resources, the government imposed a 5 percent consumption tax on them in April.
"I think most restaurants will be willing to do their part," Bian said.
The use of disposable chopsticks has been debated for years.
Both restaurant owners and consumers prefer them, their supporters say, and an industry has grown up around their manufacture.
"I would be happy to stop using wooden chopsticks for environmental concerns, but some diners prefer them for hygiene reasons." Wang Yucheng, who runs a restaurant in Beijing, said.
To help restaurants become more environmentally friendly and energy efficient, the Ministry of Commerce recently issued a range of provisions relating to the catering industry, which discourage the use of wooden chopsticks.
Though not mandatory, the provisions, slated for implementation on December 1, are the first to include the strong suggestion to get rid of disposable chopsticks, Bian said.
Besides its domestic consumption, China is also a major exporter of chopsticks, with Japan its largest trading partner. Despite boasting the world's highest forest coverage at 69 percent, Japan imports all 25 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks it consumes every year.
(China Daily 08/10/2007 page3)