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Chinese implements to get the chop

A National People’s Congress member has highlighted the dire situation of China’s deforestation during a parliamentary meeting, saying that the country produces as many as 80 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks each year. Source: South China Morning Post

Bo Guangxin, chairman of state-owned timber firm Jilin Forest Industry, said at a meeting of the annual parliament session that the mass production of the wooden tableware is a heavy burden on national forests.

Eighty billion pairs of chopsticks is no small figure.

Laid out, that many chopsticks can cover the ground of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, one of the world’s largest public squares, more than 360 times – with each chopstick being 1cm-by-0.5cm and 20cm long, Bo said.

A total of “20 million 20-year-old trees” have to be chopped down each year to make way for the annual production, he said.

According to the latest available forest survey by the State Forestry Administration in 2009, China’s forest coverage was 20.36% and ranked 139th place in the world. The average per capita forest coverage was 0.145 hectares, less than one-fourth of the world’s average.

Despite government measures aimed at protecting forest resources, China’s woods may continue to deplete because, Bo said, people’s eating habits lead to high demand for disposable chopsticks.

“To solve the issue, I think we first need to bring a change to people’s eating habits and urge everyone to carry their own chopsticks around. Secondly, we should gradually introduce a replacement for such chopsticks,” he said.

In a bid to reduce China’s carbon dioxide emission, outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao called on the government at a 2009 UN summit to increase forest coverage by an additional 40 million hectares by 2020.