Chinese diners have been asked to stop using disposable chopsticks to help save the planet.
Demand for the throwaway implement has rocketed in China recently and now breaches 80 billion sets annually, according to GlobalPost. The trend has become a huge burden on the nation’s forests and lawmakers are determined to address the issue.
“We must change our consumption habits and encourage people to carry their own tableware,” Jilin Forestry Industry Group Chairman Bo Guangxin told a parliamentary session on Friday, according to China’s Xinhua state news agency. He added that 20 million 20-year-old trees are required each year simply to keep up with demand.
The problem is far from new — a five percent tax on disposable chopsticks was levied in 2006 but had little success discouraging use. Environmental advocacy group Greenpeace in 2010 created a modern art sculpture using 160,000 chopsticks to call attention to the issue.
China is the largest consumer of wood in the world and uses both domestic and imported timber. Chinese demand for foreign lumber has increased three-fold since 2000 to 180 million cubic meters in 2011, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency said in a report last year.
Outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao told a U.N. summit on climate change in 2009 that his administration planned to increase forest cover by 40 million hectares by 2020, according to CNN. However, observers at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies have since cast doubt whether this scheme is really effective.