The use of disposable chopsticks should be abandoned for the good of one's health and the environment, a China Cuisine Association (CCA) official has said.
Bian Jiang, secretary-general of the CCA, claimed that China produces and discards over 45 billion pairs of wooden chopsticks annually, at a cost to the environment of about 25 million trees.
"That's a heavy blow to the country's dwindling forests," he told The China Daily.
In a bid to discourage the use of wooden chopsticks and to protect timber resources, Beijing has imposed a five percent consumption tax on them since April.
The use of disposable chopsticks has been debated for years. Both restaurant owners and consumers prefer them.
"I would be happy to stop using wooden chopsticks for environmental concerns, but some diners prefer them for hygiene reasons." Wang Yucheng, who runs a restaurant in Beijing, was quoted, as saying.
To help restaurants become more environmentally friendly and energy efficient, the Ministry of Commerce recently issued several provisions relating to the catering industry, which discourage the use of wooden chopsticks.
Though not mandatory, the provisions, slated for implementation on December 1, are the first to suggest the end of disposable chopsticks, Bian said.
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.