I came across this issue with chopsticks as part of my Man Only Dines research.
The use of disposable chopsticks has long been a preferred method of eating in China for convenience and sanitation; particularly since the SARS outbreak in 2003. Normally the use of wood instead of plastic would be advocated, however it is estimated that China produces 80billion chopsticks a year. Thats equal to 20 million 20 year old trees, placing considerable impact on the natural environment.
Since 2006, China has imposed a 5% tax as a deterrent to using disposable chopsticks, however it is Taiwan that is taking up the BYO chopstick mantle; as demonstrated in the following images.
In an article called Think Before You Use: The problem with disposable chopsticks, Emily Kuo states that:
She lists a range of plastic, screw together options (similar to those shown above), but none come close to using a familiar, natural material when compared to plastic. The natural answer feels to make the chopsticks out of ceramics, an unusual but pre-existing process.
Ceramics can be decorative, easy to clean and has permanence. The ceramic chopstick could be the answer to China’s problem.