Can You Recycle Chopsticks?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: September 17, 2021
  • Time to read: 4 min.

In some Asian countries, using chopsticks as eating utensils has been there for many decades. 

Chopsticks are wooden, which means that trees are cut to manufacture them. 

However, we have seen an emergence of plastic chopsticks in today’s market, hotels, and homes. 

In this regard, we should be asking ourselves whether we can recycle chopsticks and in which way we can do it. 

Buckle up your seat belt as I take you through this subject to give you a clear glimpse.

Types of Chopsticks

These pairs of eating utensils are used mostly in East Asian countries, including Japan, Korea, and China. So, what would you say are the differences between the chopsticks in these three regions? I will explain each individually to help you get a better understanding of the differences;


China is the most populated country, with an estimated population of 1.4 billion people as of 2021 reports. 

Therefore, you can see how much material is needed to make their chopsticks. 

These eating utensils in this country come in a rectangular shape, measure approximately 25cm in length, and they are made from a variety of materials, including:

  • Wood
  • Plastic
  • Bamboo
  • Metal
  • Jade
  • Silver

Their non-slippery features make them ideal for different meals, including:

  • Sushi
  • Noodle Soup
  • Barbeque
  • Salad
  • Pho

The tips depend on the material used – wooden and bamboo sticks have sharp tips, while melamine or plastic varieties have blunt ends. 


Japanese chopsticks are shorter than their Chinese cousins, and they come with sharp tips. 

You may be asking yourself why. This is because most Japanese dishes consist of significant quantities of whole bony fish. 

Therefore, these sticks are appropriate for the removal of small fish bones. You will find circumferential grooves on these sticks, which prevent food from slipping. 


In Korea, metal chopsticks have been common since time immemorial. 

Their length is medium, and their shape is small and flat rectangular. 

Additionally, this tableware is decorated at the grip. In most cases, you will find Koreans using their chopsticks in collaboration with a spoon.

Are Chopsticks Recyclable?

This question comes at the right time when the world is embracing the recycling phenomenon. 

In East Asian countries, chopsticks are used widely during meal times. 

This implies that there is a whole bunch of them waiting to be disposed of. 

However, is there a way we can reuse them instead of throwing them out? Let us learn together about this subject in the following paragraphs.

Wood and plastic are the two primary materials used to manufacture the chopsticks we use in restaurants, hotels, and our homes. It can be challenging to distinguish which is which between the two. 

However, you will find that most of these utensils have a label showing that we should dispose them of in a recycle bin, meaning we can reuse them in other areas. 

There is no doubt about recycling wooden chopsticks. You can use them in the following ways;

  • Cleaning hard-to-reach spots
  • Sticking them in your hair to create a bun
  • Using them as knitting needles
  • Stirring paint and mixing drinks
  • Building a DIY iPad stand
  • Toasting marshmallows

On the other hand, we can be certain that plastic chopsticks are made from a recyclable material known as propylene. 

Therefore, the answer to whether we can recycle chopsticks is yes. 

Why are Chopsticks Bad for the Environment?

I have come across this question in almost all the discussions, whether random or planned. 

Therefore, it would be essential to consider explaining why these utensils are not doing our environment any good. 

Plastic chopsticks are the main threat to our environment. 

You would be surprised to learn that both plastic and wooden chopsticks have adverse effects on the environment. 

Let us start with the plastic chopsticks. 

Besides the reusability of plastic, these utensils become useless after a while and end up in the landfill. 

Plastic does not decompose or biodegrade. This means it remains in the landfill for thousands of years before it breaks down. 

Unfortunately, even after many years, the chopstick only breaks down into smaller pieces of plastic. 

The most probable thing is that, by that time, the plastic will have been blown by the wind or washed away by floods into rivers, oceans, lakes, and other water bodies. 

This pollutes the environment and affects aquatic life. On the other hand, wooden chopsticks take a shorter time to decompose and biodegrade, improving soil quality. 

However, many trees have to be cut down to make wooden chopsticks. 

We all know that our earth is now faced with global warming, a phenomenon mainly caused by human activity, tree cutting being at the top. 

Cutting down significant numbers of trees exposes the environment to natural disasters, such as drought and flooding. 

Additionally, trees are a reliable source of oxygen used by human beings and animals. 

Therefore, reducing the number of trees takes away the means of livelihood for humans and animals. 

Finally, manufacturers have developed strategies to ensure that their products are durable and appear aesthetically appealing to prospective clients. 

Today, companies are using harsh chemicals on wooden chopsticks to make them stronger and more beautiful. 

These chemicals get into our body when we use this chopstick, which can cause different health conditions. 

The use of chopsticks in the modern world has gained momentum even in countries that are not in East Asia. 

This has mainly been promoted by the launching of Japanese and Chinese eateries in countries outside Asia. 

However, we need to be cautious about using this tableware, especially considering its effects on the environment. 

Get creative and reuse these products instead of disposing them of in a landfill. 

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