Are chopsticks reusable? We get asked this question a lot. The answer is yes, absolutely! However, washing and caring for them varies by how they are finished and from what material they are made. So let's take a look....
How To Reuse Wood and Bamboo Chopsticks
You can reuse all bamboo and wooden chopsticks. Save them! A lot of time and resources went into making them, even the disposable kind. Wash and care for them like other wooden utensils and they will last for many years.
Those marked or sold as "dishwasher safe" can be washed in home dishwashers just like silverware. Place them horizontal on the upper rack, crosswise to the rack wires to prevent them from falling down into the lower reaches of the dishwasher.
Painted chopsticks that aren't specified as dishwasher safe need to be hand washed with soap and water. Never leave painted sticks soaking for any length of time or the wood will expand and damage the paint finish. Natural or unfinished sticks should be treated in similar fashion, and from time to time wipe on a light coat of cooking oil. Wipe off any excess oil.
When you no longer want to reuse them, repurpose them. They make great plant stakes, hair sticks, drink stirrers, and can be used for a myriad of craft and art projects. If they are natural with no painted finish then they can be composted with other yard waste.
What Are The Best Reusable Chopsticks?
The best reusable chopsticks in our opinion are dishwasher safe chopsticks. They are made of a most durable material such as metal or plastic, or have special extra tough finishes that can stand up to water and detergents. Stainless steel chopsticks are like silverware and will last for decades.
Why Should We Reuse Chopsticks?
It can take a lot of labor and natural resources to make a pair of chopsticks. Virtually all pairs are made in Asia such as China or Japan. Disposable chop sticks are typically made of bamboo, which is a rapid growing, easily renewable resource. However some are made of wood, which in comparison is slow to regrow, and it is estimated China cuts down 3.8 million trees annually to manufacture over 5.7 billion pairs. They are then packaged in a paper wrapper to keep them sanitary. See our article on how disposable chopsticks are made.
Chopsticks protected with a finish such as paint or clear lacquer, are meant to be kept and reused, hopefully for many years. A typical “Japanese #1” quality painted finish is made of five layers of paint: two layers of primer sealer, two coats of the color, and one coat of clear protective finish. The entire process takes as long as 45 days. See our article on how everyday painted chopsticks are made.
Plastic and stainless steel chopsticks have greater impact on our environment during manufacturing but will last far longer than most wood or bamboo pairs. These require petroleum, chemicals, ores and energy to produce, so while they may considered as an ecological choice because of their durability, they have a greater up-front impact on the environment.
By reusing a chopsticks set (and taking our own pair with us to restaurants) we can reduce the number of pairs needed and therefore help the environment - one little stick at a time.
Where Can You Buy Reusable Chopsticks?
At EverythingChopsticks all of our chopsticks are reusable. All of our painted chopsticks are of the highest quality using at least 5 layers of paint and lacquer finish. We call these "everyday use" chopsticks because they will stand up to hand washing every day for years. We also have an excellent selection of durable dishwasher safe, metal and plastic chopsticks.
How Are Chopsticks Being Repurposed?
One group of 200 students in China, coordinating with Greenpeace and the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, set out to build awareness of disposable chop stick use by building sculptures in one of Beijing’s most popular shopping malls. The sculptures are of trees and are built entirely out of 80,000 pairs of used disposable chop sticks. You can read more in our article Turning Back Into Trees.
One man, Shuhei Ogawara, collected over 7,000 pairs of used disposable sticks and built a beautiful canoe. Check out our article on Canoe Made From Disposable Chop Sticks.
Chopsticks have been popular for use in holding up hair for perhaps as long as for cooking. Naturally you may not want to use ugly ones from your last takeout, but attractive painted pairs can make a nice fashion statement. And a new disposable pair - not yet separated - has the extra advantage of being able to grip like an extra large bobby pin. Check out our article on Hair Sticks.
Kenneth Z. created a fun crossbow out of chopsticks and a rubber band. You can read a little more about it in our article and find a link to his photographed instructions on how to make one yourself.
There are hundreds of great things to do with old chopsticks, from use as plant ID stakes and dowels for woodworking to drink stirrers and craft projects.