Chinese Environmentalists Sue Food Companies for Destroying Forests to Make Chopsticks

An environmental organization in China filed separate lawsuits against three local food delivery apps for allegedly damaging the environment by providing unnecessary disposable utensils.

The case against the parent companies of Ele.me, Meituan Waimai and Baidu Waimai was accepted by Beijing No. 4 Intermediate People’s Court last Friday.

In its argument, the Green Volunteer League of Chongqing claimed that users cannot easily decline from receiving chopsticks and other disposable utensils from the services, which then contribute to excessive waste.

This is a valid concern as China, which only has 3.4% of intact forests, produces 57 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks annually. This rate of production requires 1.18 million square meters of forest, as per government statistics, according to Greenpeace.

Caixin reported that Alibaba-backed Ele.me sets “1” as the lowest number of utensils for customers. Meituan Waimai allows “0,” but such option is difficult to find. Baidu Waimai offers utensils by default.

Since then, Ele.me and Meituan Waimai reportedly changed their settings to allow users to opt out of utensils more conveniently. Baidu Waimai, however, could not make any changes as its utensils come directly from the restaurants.

The companies have also been ordered to pay for environmental damage, which the Green Volunteer League pointed out may be hard to evaluate.

The organization proposes that customers who choose to have utensils must be charged 1 yuan (approximately $0.15) — the same amount to be deducted from their orders if they decline, Quartz noted.

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