Today I received a very interesting powerpoint slide about disposal chopsticks. If you are living in Asia, putting a pair into your mouth as you eat is something that you would do without a thought. But before you do it again, here are some questions and answers for you to ponder upon first.
1) What are disposal chopsticks made of?
A: They are made from wood cut from Bamboo Trees. A 20-year old tree could produce 3000-4000 pairs of chopstick. Taiwanese use more than 100billion pairs and that means 29 million trees are being cut every year.
2) How are they processed?
A: Once they are cut to size, they are bleached using sulfites and Hydrogen Peroxide (to make them less prone to mold). They are then left in the open to dry. After that process, they are packed in bulk to be shipped out to the importer.
3) It takes 1 month to ship. So what could these chopsticks be exposed to on the ship?
A: Rats & cockroaches.
4) Are disposal chopsticks disinfected before they are individually wrapped?
A: A primary school student experimented by soaking disposal chopsticks in a beaker of water for one week. She tried growing green peas in the solution and noticed that it took a longer time to grow and they wilted when they reached the height of 5-6cm. Smoke from burning these chopstick is tested to be acidic. This proved that there are residues of the chemicals used on the chopsticks.
5) What is the natural colour of wood? What is the colour of your disposal chopsticks?
A: Avoid using disposable chopsticks which are very white as this means that they may have been bleached excessively. Also avoid using them for barbecues or leaving them in the soup. (Sulfur dioxide, a sulfiting agent, is a colorless and water-soluble chemical, so it can leach into your food unnoticed).
6) Is it possible to recycle and re-use disposal chopstick?
A: As reported by reliable sources, it was found that the disposable chopstick are being recycled by bleaching them in sulfur and Hydrogen Peroxide. So, it is best to bring your own chopstick when eating out.
Sulfites is permitted by the U.S Food Drug Administration (FDA) to bleach and preserve food, fruits and vegetables within a regulated limit. Excessive ingestion of sulfite or sulfite-sensitive people can develop breathing difficulties, asthma, skin rashes, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea.
I do not know how accurate this process report is but I will opt to request for reusable fork and spoon if I am offered a pair. Why? Disposable chopstick can affect our environment. Think about trees that have to be cut down and the mounting waste they create.
And if you are wondering what you can do about the waste, then it is time to think like Bryan Parks, an American, who has lived in China for several years. Find out why he started Kwytza Kraft and what he can create with disposal chopsticks to make a living.