BYOC (Bring Your Own Chopsticks)
In 2006, activists in Asia launched the BYOC (Bring Your Own Chopsticks) movement in response to the shocking number of chopsticks being used and disposed of each year. As many as 25 million trees are felled annually for the disposable chopstick industry. China alone produces close to 63 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks each year. At this rate, environmentalists warn that China will have exhausted its remaining forests in a decade.
Following the BYOC movement some Asian providence’s banned the production, sale and use of disposable wooden chopsticks. There are several restaurants that are offering a reward system for people who bring their own chopsticks, eventually earning discounts on meals. Taking it the extra step several restaurants offer “chopstick keep” a system where regular customers cans store their chopsticks at the venue and they will even wash them for you.
Why such drastic measures? The government is convinced that the devastating floods last summer, which killed more than 3,000 people, were caused by soil erosion due to excessive logging in river basins. Within weeks, the State Council banned logging and lumberjacks became planters in Sichuan Province.
This problem is not confined to Asia; it is currently encroaching on the United States and Canada as well. One Georgia company exports 2 million disposable chopsticks to China every day (Straussman, 2011; Papers, 2011). This venture is becoming more profitable for American businessmen after a 2006 Chinese export tax caused a noticeable increase in price to the Japanese (Nuwer, 2011). This small town in Georgia is not the first to capitalize on the global chopstick business. In 1985 a company in New Mexico manufactured and exported disposable chopsticks to Japan (Anonymous, 1985); in 1987 a small town in Minnesota was doing the same (Anonymous, 1987); several cities in Canada have similar businesses.
Many of these initial chopstick factories failed due to inefficient machinery. With new machinery from South Korea and recent tax hikes on Chinese chopsticks (Straussman, 2011), the United States is targeted to become more open to disposable chopstick manufacturing. This company in Georgia is doing so well, it’s already considering expanding to other states, like Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia, West Virginia, Michigan and Oregon.