Wed, Jun 11, 2008 - Page 2 News List

EPA, convenience stores launch bid to cut chopstick use

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Although 80 percent of Taiwanese own one to three pairs of "eco-friendly chopsticks" (chopsticks in carrying cases), the nation still consumes 5 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks a year, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday.

To cut that number, the agency has enlisted the help of four major convenience store chains to stop offering complementary chopsticks to people buying instant noodles or lunchboxes, Solid Waste Control Director-General Ho Soong-chin (何舜琴) told a press conference in Taipei.

“Though usage of disposable chopsticks has been declining since 2006 because of media coverage of sulfur dioxide contamination, Taiwanese still use 13 million pairs per day, which translates into one pair per person every two days,” Ho said.

Starting next month, 7-Eleven, OK, Family Mart and Hi-Life will only provide chopsticks to customers who specifically ask for them, she said.

“Twenty percent of the public we surveyed regularly bring their own chopsticks when eating out, which shows that carrying one’s own utensils is becoming a habit,” Ho said.

The EPA hopes the new policy would increase that percentage, Ho said.

“In six months, we hope to reduce convenience stores’ chopstick usage by 20 percent, which will save 36 million pairs of chopsticks, the equivalent of 10,000 20-year-old trees and 300 tonnes of carbon emissions,” she said.

However, Ho admitted that the policy would only make a slight dent in disposable chopstick use because convenience stores account for just 3.6 percent of the total number of chopsticks handed out.

Restaurants, food stalls and other eateries account for more than 90 percent of disposable chopstick usage (or 4.5 billion pairs), she said.

When told that a 20 percent cut reduction in convenience store usage would only mean a savings of 0.72 percent of the total usage, Ho said: “What we are trying to do is increase awareness, so that people will hopefully carry the concept across to other areas of dining out.”

More widespread campaigns and regulations to incorporate all sectors distributing disposable chopsticks may be launched, Ho said.

“Old habits die hard — in addition to government policies, education should also be used to foster the habit of saying no to disposable utensils,” she said.

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