Mar 12, 2019
In Japan, every time you go to buy take-out at some gyudon place or get some food from the convenience store, you will probably find a pair of disposable chopsticks or a plastic fork and a spoon in the plastic bag with your food. If you were getting a bento from a supermarket, at least they would ask whether or not you would like a pair of chopsticks. From these take-out places though, the inclusion is automatic -- even if I was going to eat it at home where I have way more than enough chopsticks for one person. But now I also find myself having a drawer full of disposable cutlery as well, and it really is wasteful.
Many people enjoy the convenience of throwing the chopsticks away so they have nothing at all to wash afterwards, but I find the effort required to wash a pair of chopsticks is so little that it is certainly not worth the waste or even the cost of production of the chopsticks. I imagine that in Japan not too many people think like me, and the amount of wooden chopsticks thrown out must be an insane number.
One very good way to help would be if restaurants start charging people for chopsticks and plastic forks, just like how plastic bags cost money in some supermarkets in Japan now. It(s simple and it certainly would encourage people to "pass" on the plastic if they know they won’t be needing it.
Another solution that I do is simply to store an extra set of cutlery at work. Fortunately, I have my own desk so I can have my cutlery set stored right next to my pens and notepads. I also have the benefit of being able to access a sink to wash them in afterwards, and it is the perfect little activity after my meal to keep me awake. Therefore, I have never had the need to split open a pair of disposable chopsticks at home or at work.
I am also very glad that my co-workers have a very similar mindset in not wanting to waste things if it is unnecessary. Sometimes one of us might bring in something to share, like a cake or perhaps we wanted to order pizza for a luxurious lunch, and when someone suggested that we need to store some paper plates for those occasions, many of us mentioned that we didn't want to use disposable plates. Instead, one of us took the initiative and bought a stack of reusable plates that are big enough for any occasion, as long as we are responsible fot washing our own plate afterward.
I really believe that it is a very good thing to turn our principles into practice. I have noticed that many of us are still using paper cups, particularly when we are drinking instant coffee. Perhaps our next step will be to bring in our own mugs and have them lined up in the office. The less things we have to throw away, the better it is for the environment. That is sustainable living, and there are always ways for us to improve, one pair of chopsticks at a time.
Yes, we should be charged for disposables! I had an issue when I worked at an English language school with the free coffee offered in plastic cups to students and prospective students. We threw out a giant bag of used cups every single day. I had suggested putting a sign on the coffee maker to promote awareness, encourage everybody to bring their own cup. Washing only cups for prospective students was doable I think, and classy to serve them in a nice cup vs disposable plastic. Now I wonder how we can get elementary schools to stop buying cases of PET bottle drinks to give away to parents and students at events/meetings...a lot of my PTA fees went to buy such drinks in the past three years...