China’s population goes through roughly 45 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks a year – that’s 130 million pairs a day.
To keep up with this demand, 100 acres of trees – 100 American football fields worth – are felled every day. That means that one acre of trees gets cut down to make chopsticks every 15 minutes.
That works out to 16 million to 25 million felled trees a year.
Usually, these chopsticks are made from birch or poplar (instead of the much more renewable bamboo) to save money. It takes 30 to 40 years for one birch tree to mature.
In 2006, the Chinese government imposed a 5% consumption tax and a 30% price increase on chopsticks. Apparently, the only people this initiative really stopped from using disposable chopsticks were some Japanese people.
Hygeine worries are a silly reason to use disposable chopsticks: Apparently nearly half of companies offering sterilized tableware in Beijing are unqualified, which means “Unhygienic dishwashing, no sterilization, lingering viruses and detergent residues are all hiding under a thin layer of transparent plastic at city restaurants.”
Next time bring your own chopsticks.