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China Pictory: The Return of Real Chopsticks

February 3, 2012

By “real,” I mean chopsticks that are actually chopped and polished, not those disposable ones that require you to split them before using. (see the slide show below)

Why “return”? Well, it’s a long story.

Chinese people have been using chopsticks for thousands of years, and there have been thousands of types of chopsticks, from down-to-the-earth bamboo chopsticks, to really fancy, sculptured ivory ones. And in the 90s’, yet another new kind came along: disposable chopsticks.

At the beginning, people thought they were cleaner and healthier, since people didn’t really trust that restaurants could do a good job cleaning chopsticks after use. Pretty soon, disposable chopsticks took over most restaurants across the country and pushed the real chopsticks—reusable but requiring cleaning—off the stage.

About a decade later, people started to hate the new comer, partly because the media reported that some restaurants, instead of disposing those disposable chopsticks, picked them up from trash and reused them. Meanwhile, environmentalists said disposable chopsticks threatened the survival of China’s already endangered forests.

Many people, disgusted by those wasteful and perhaps not really disposable chopsticks, started to bring their own reusable chopsticks to restaurants, and they would bring them home to wash after eating. Others thought the self-provided chopsticks were just as disgusting since they were not washed promptly.

With their clean and healthy claims debunked, disposable chopsticks were under siege. Campaigns were waged to stop their use, and people’s once love for their convenience and hygiene turned into aversion.

But life without chopsticks is just unimaginable. So restaurants, which used to get rid of reusable chopsticks to attract customers, brought the old-fashioned chopsticks back for exactly the same reason. This time, with better cleaning solutions.

Hence the return of the real chopsticks.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(Photos by Josie Liu unless otherwise indicated)

More on China’s environment by Josie Liu:

Some thoughts on China’s Environment

Local Governments Blamed for Unsuccessful Environmental Campaign

China’s Economy Growth Pays Too High Price: State Official


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