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Originally stemming from the Chinese and Japanese culture, chopsticks have become a staple in many American homes, as well as in restaurants. Restaurants often give out chopsticks in addition to plastic cutlery, as a one-time use item. Unfortunately, these one-time use chopsticks come with the same issues that plastic cutlery does, in the way that they usually cannot be recycled. This leaves another unnecessary environmental hazard, with us trying to figure out how we can best dispose of these convenient culinary tools. In this article, we take a look at how to properly dispose of your chopsticks, as well as alternatives to the plastic or wooden kind found in your takeout bag.
Why Can’t Chopsticks Be Recycled?
So, why can’t chopsticks be recycled in the first place? There have been many suggestions in recent years for companies to recycle wooden chopsticks into pulp, which can then be used for papermaking. However, there are several reasons why this is not a possibility, including the amount of bacteria that quickly begins to grow on them after use.
PR Underground explains more on the difficulties that come along with trying to reuse disposable chopsticks:
“In addition, disposable chopsticks are stained with oil or even infectious bacteria, and the washing of wooden chopsticks becomes a big problem. The treatment of washing water is the highlight. Most of the cheap detergents contain phosphorus and other chemical components that are rejected by water. If they are not treated properly, they can be directly discharged into rivers or infiltrated into the soil, causing pollution of water or soil. It is easy to cause secondary pollution. The meaning of chopsticks recycling is not worth the loss.”
How to Dispose of Chopsticks
Disposable chopsticks must most often be disposed of in the trash, and cannot be recycled. However, there may be some exceptions to this rule. While most disposable chopsticks are made of wood, some plastic chopsticks may be able to be recycled.
Conserve Energy Future tells us more on how to correctly dispose of chopsticks, depending on their material:
“The majority of chopsticks in use today are either made from plastic or wood. Though there are no specific labels to help recognize which is which, one thing we know is that plastic chopsticks are made from a raw material called polypropylene, and they can be recycled. Often, you will find a recycling sign on the chopstick, which signifies that its disposal should only be in the recycling bin.”
Is There an Alternative to Disposable Chopsticks?
Reusable chopsticks have become much more popular in recent years, and are a great solution to avoiding this environmental dilemma altogether. Reusable chopsticks are often made of stainless steel and can be washed and dried over and over again.
Eric A. Goldstein, New York City environment director and senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council tells HuffPost why you should consider reusable chopsticks:
“It’s easy to keep a reusable pair of chopsticks in a backpack, purse, or desk drawer,” Goldstein said. “Most chopsticks are made in China, tens of billions a year, and are contributing to deforestation there. Reusable wooden or plastic chopsticks make much more sense.”
We offer a wide variety of waste disposal options, including how to recycle disposable chopsticks, with services readily available online. Reach out to us to see what we can offer you.
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