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Disposable or single-use chopsticks are chopsticks which are designed to be used once, and then discarded. Technically, it is possible to use most disposable chopsticks more than once, but they tend to break down with repeated use, making them unpleasant or challenging to reuse. Many Asian markets stock disposable chopsticks in large packages, sometimes along with disposable silverware, and these chopsticks are also a familiar feature at Asian buffets, fast food restaurants, and some Asian restaurants.
There are a number of reasons to use disposable chopsticks. For to go food, providing disposable chopsticks is a courtesy to customers, to ensure that they have eating utensils available. At locations where people dine in, using disposable chopsticks cuts down on dishwashing costs, and in some cases it may be more environmentally friendly than using an industrial dishwasher to clean chopsticks. Chopsticks are also challenging to clean in a dishwasher, because they tend to slide through the cracks, and they represent additional work for the staff of a restaurant.
Many disposable chopsticks are made from bamboo, a lightweight, sturdy wood which is very easy to work. Classically, the chopsticks are made by die-cutting a stick of bamboo to create two chopsticks which can be pulled apart by the consumer, although it is also possible to find disposable bamboo chopsticks which come separately. The advantage to die-cut chopsticks is that they are difficult to lose. Plastic can also be used to make disposables, with some companies using bioplastics which will break down after use to reduce litter.
Disposable chopsticks usually come in a sheath of plastic or paper for hygienic reasons, to reduce the transfer of bacteria and dirt to the chopsticks. The wrapper may be printed with information about the establishment which provided the chopsticks, or with generic images or writing, sometimes including directions for using the chopsticks so that people who are unfamiliar with these eating utensils can understand how they work.
In addition to being useful in food service, disposable chopsticks are sometimes handy for individual consumers. They can be taken along on a picnic so that dirty chopsticks do not have to be carefully packed up and later washed, and they can be useful to keep in the car or in a purse for food emergencies. Campers may also carry disposable chopsticks for eating, discarding the biodegradable wood and packing the wrappers away in camp trash. Enterprising crafters also like disposable chopsticks for various projects.