Move to ban disposable chopsticks for good

Updated: 2011-12-01 08:03

By Ma Lie (China Daily)

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Move to ban disposable chopsticks for good

Dozens of jobseekers use disposable chopsticks during lunch at a jobs fair in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province. File photo

XI'AN - Disposable wooden chopsticks will be banned starting Dec 1 in restaurants in Shaanxi province, according to a Circular Economy Promotion Regulation.

The law is the first at the provincial level to promote the development of a circular economy. It is to have an influence on government policies, on the specific duties of State organs, enterprises and institutions, on efforts to conserve natural resources and on what is considered a reasonable rate of consumption for every family and person, according to Zhang Maizeng, vice-chairman of the standing committee of the provincial people's congress.

The regulation prohibits the use of disposable wooden chopsticks on the grounds that making them wastes forest resources. Food and beverage businesses will not be allowed to provide the utensils to customers from Dec 1 onward.

Those who violate the regulation will be given a short amount of time to mend their ways. If they do not, they will be punished.

"Food and beverage companies that break the rules will be fined from 500 yuan to 2,000 yuan ($80 to 320) and people who run small restaurants will be fined from 50 yuan to 200 yuan if they provide disposable chopsticks," the regulation says.

Zheng Mingju, a white-collar worker at a software industrial park in Xi'an, capital of the province, said he welcomes the regulation. But he said the rule raises doubts about sanitation in small restaurants.

"My colleagues and I have our lunch in the small and cheap restaurants around our company because we only have an hour for lunch and want to save money," Zheng said. "We have used disposable chopsticks, mostly because we didn't think restaurants would thoroughly disinfect reusable chopsticks."

China Daily visited several small restaurants in Xi'an at lunch time on Tuesday and found they were offering customers disposable chopsticks.

The operator of one small restaurant, who declined to state his full name, said more than 100 pairs of disposable chopsticks are used there every day. He likes the chopsticks because nobody ever has to wash them, which lowers his labor costs.

"I bought 100 pairs of disposable chopsticks for less than 3 yuan," Jin said. "There's no need to pay anyone to wash them."

In another restaurant, China Daily found a disinfecting machine. The owner there, who also declined to provide his full name, said he only bought it to pass a health check.

"It would cost me at least 200 yuan a month for electricity if I operated it every day," said the owner. "I like to use disposable chopsticks, which cost less."

Disposable chopsticks are often sold in Xi'an markets for light industrial products. One of them had 2,000 pairs of the utensils for sale for 55 yuan.

According to Liu Ye'an, deputy director of the Xi'an health bureau's health inspection office, his team hopes to eliminate the use of disposable chopsticks by becoming a stricter supervisor.

On April 12, 2004, the provincial forest bureau and industrial and commercial bureau issued a document prohibiting the production, sale and use of disposable chopsticks. However, they continued to appear in markets and restaurants.

"I hope the new regulation will ban disposable chopsticks," said Zheng, the white-collar worker. "I plan to take my own chopsticks with me when I have lunch in small restaurants, both to protect my health and to prevent the waste of forest resources."