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China: no more wooden chopsticks?

chopstick.jpgCHINA WATCH What could change centuries of tradition in China at the drop of a hat?

A piece of news that has cheered environmentalists but worried restaurant owners and some customers: The China Cuisine Association has called on restaurants and customers to abandon wooden chopsticks, according to Chinadaily.

Well, there is something Chinadaily didn’t say, and if you don’t visit small restaurants here, you wouldn’t understand why it is so hard to abandon wooden chopsticks. It’s a bit like not having popcorn at the cinema, really.

Many people, for environmental concerns, would like to give them up. But they’re still concerned about the hygiene of reusing plastic chopsticks. They can be filthy…

Get these facts on chopsticks:

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 (secretary-general of China Cuisine Association) said.

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.

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.

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