Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chinese food diners urged to go easy on disposable chopsticks

As the Chinese community gets ready to usher in the Year of the Metal Rabbit, a waste and pollution watchdog urged Filipinos who are planning to feast in Chinese restaurants to bring reusable chopsticks in lieu of single-use chopsticks that, by design, go to the bins after use.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network campaigning for sustainable living, appealed to Chinese food lovers to opt for reusable chopsticks as a fitting response to the environmental troubles being faced by both China and the Philippines.

“We are adding our voice to the clamor to cut the use and disposal of single-use chopsticks because of the deforestation and flooding problems in China, the world’s number one maker, consumer and exporter of disposable chopsticks, and our own persistent battle against garbage due to the incursion of throwaway habits into the national culture,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“By making a switch from disposable to reusable chopsticks, we help in assuaging China’s problem with deforestation that leads to soil erosion and destructive flooding and in trimming down chopstick trash from our consumption of mouth-watering East Asian food,” he pointed out.

“If you are planning to eat out in Binondo or dine in your favorite Chinese restaurant elsewhere, please bring your own reusable chopsticks and protect trees from being cut and wasted,” suggested Alvarez.

“We likewise encourage restaurant owners to provide their customers with clean reusable chopsticks and offer single-use chopsticks by request only,” he said.

“To entice their customers to switch to reusable chopsticks, eco-minded food entrepreneurs can provide incentives such as extra fortune cookies or fruit servings,” he added.

EcoWaste Coalition’s Basura Patrollers observed that only one of the 25 Chinese restaurants they visited along Ongpin Street and nearby streets in the heart of Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown, offer reusable chopsticks.

While all the 25 restaurants use reusable tableware for dine-in customers, only one restaurant offers both reusable and disposable chopsticks, which are given to diners if requested.

Aside from bringing your own chopsticks, the EcoWaste Coalition advises the public, especially those planning to go to Binondo in the coming days to:

1. Bring reusable bags to carry “good luck charms,” fruits, "hopia," “tikoy” and other Chinese delicacies that are plentiful in the area. Say “no” to plastic bags.

2. Bring containers for popular “take home” Chinese dishes that abound in Chinatown such as dumplings, steamed or fried buns, noodles, soups, stews and porridge. Cut your use of wasteful polystyrene food containers.

3. Consider making a healthy and eco-friendly food choice: go for vegetarian Chinese cuisine.

Citing information that Greenpeace East Asia obtained from China’s forestry authorities, the EcoWaste Coalition noted that China produces some 57 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks annually that requires over 1.18 million square meters of forest to be cut.

Chinese government data reveal that over 25 million trees are felled in China each year to meet the consumer demand for disposable chopsticks inside China and overseas.

Last year in June, China's Ministry of Commerce and five other ministries warned that "companies making disposable chopsticks will face local government restrictions aimed at decreasing the use of the throwaway utensil. Production, circulation and recycling of disposable chopsticks should be more strictly supervised."


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