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Hang on to those chopsticks

The lowly eat-and-toss disposable wooden chopsticks are coming under fire in China as unfriendly to the environment.

The head of the China Cuisine Association, Bian Jiang, was quoted this morning as urging people to abandon the use of wooden chopsticks ahead of next year’s Olympics.

China 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 told China Daily.

“That's a heavy blow to the country's dwindling forests,” he told the newspaper.

Last year, China imposed a five percent consumption tax on wooden chopsticks in an effort to discourage their use.

So far, though, it is largely university students who are picking up on the drive to give up disposable chopsticks. Last month, groups at nine universities agreed to fight for reusable chopsticks, including providing covers for students to carry the utensils with them.

The English term “chopsticks,” by the way, has an interesting etymology. It is derived from Pidgin English spoken in former British Chinese colonies. A Chinese term, “kuaizi,” or quick ones, became chop (Pidgin for quick) sticks.


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"China Rises" is written by Tom Lasseter, the Beijing bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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