Another company is bringing rice husk back to the dining table, not as food but as the main material for producing disposable chopsticks. In China alone, an estimated 45 billion pairs are used and thrown away every year, the equivalent of almost 4 million fully grown trees, according to a report by China Daily.
The environmental impact of wooden disposable chopsticks is so serious that the Chinese government has imposed a “chopstick tax” to curb production and use. Japan is another major consumer of disposable chopsticks. Eliminating disposable chopsticks in the country could prove more difficult because of traditional beliefs that “chopsticks lose their original divine power after a single use.” To preserve its forests, Japan imports disposable chopsticks from China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Chile, and Russia, resulting in deforestation in those countries. Japan, however, still has to deal with the problem of used chopsticks—an estimated 25 billion pairs every year.
Algan Technology, a company that specializes in reusing waste products and by-products, has developed a new material that contains 90% rice husk and only 10% resin. This nontoxic material, called SOLIT RICEIT, can be used for manufacturing reusable and disposable chopsticks without cutting down a single tree. SOLIT RICEIT chopsticks are so eco-friendly they can also be recycled into new products such as boxes, boards, pallets, and others traditionally made from wood without using any additives or water.
“The daily use of disposable chopsticks means 200 hectares of trees, mainly birch and aspen, have to be cut every 24 hours around the world,” said co-founder and Algan Technology project manager Joaquin Rodrigo García. If Algan Technology has its way, chopsticks will no longer “grow” on trees but come from rice byproducts. (Pauline Amelinckx)