THE BLOG
04/15/2009 10:48 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Wrapping Up Our Plastic Habit...In More Plastic

Not surprisingly, our world is awash in disposable plastic cutlery. Google Answers' best estimates put annual production at about 40 billion pieces in the USA alone. Seem outrageous? Just tally your own consumption, or that of your office, in a two-week span and then calculate your personal annual consumption.

And that, by the way, isn't counting all the billions of pieces coming from China, Thailand, etc. Japan back in the 1800s started making ubiquitous throw-away chopsticks as a way to use up wood waste! Now China exports approximately four billion square meters of wood to Japan in the form of these one-use sticks.

If cheap oil is over, cheap cutlery is not. But if we had to pay a buck each time we wanted to tote away a knife, spoon, fork or chopsticks (that we might not even use), consumption would certainly fall, and the novel practice of carrying your own cool cutlery would catch on. In come cities in Japan, lunch restaurants have personal chopstick parking, called "hashi" so you can reuse your own pair. The idea is not far-fetched, its time just hasn't quite arrived yet in our throw-away society.

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It will. And while we're waiting for B.Y.O.C. to catch on mainstream, perhaps we could in the meantime at least eliminate the excessive habit of wrapping all our plastic in plastic. This is a practice that seems to also have slowly emigrated from Asia, where plastic wrapping confers the idea of cleanliness and gritty city air makes it at least understandable.

Plastic wrapping is difficult if not impossible to recycle, and its leaching of unsafe chemicals to our products uncertain. Yet amazingly, its use still seems to grow unabated. When plastic is wrapping up a plastic utensil, it is a useless (and sometimes frustrating) extravagance. We can start to choose to reuse the utensils or bring our own. It is up to retailers and restaurant chains, however, to stop purchasing plastic-wrapped plastic and help us all transition from the throw-away to the save-for-another-day society.

More from TreeHugger on Carry Your Own
::Avoid Plastic Utensils By Carrying Your Own - Wrapped In Recycled Cases
::Carry Your Own Cutlery
::Eco-To-Go: Reducing Take-Out Waste

::"Waiter...There's A Fly in My Plastic Soup"
::No Free Refills: Fast Food Packaging Industry Destroying Southern US Forests