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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 March 2006, 10:46 GMT
China introduces chopsticks tax
Disposable chopsticks
Billions of pairs of disposable chopsticks are discarded each year
The Chinese government is introducing a 5% tax on disposable wooden chopsticks in a bid to preserve its forests.

It produces about 45 billion pairs of chopsticks a year, consuming millions of trees and bamboo plants.

The move came as China said it would raise some consumption taxes next month in a bid to help the environment and narrow the gap between rich and poor.

Taxes on yachts, luxury watches, golf clubs, gas-guzzling cars and wooden floor panels are rising by 5-20%.

"This is part of the government's strategy of rebalancing growth and reducing energy demand," said Ben Simpfendorfer, a strategist with the Royal Bank of Scotland in Hong Kong.

"The government wants to show that it is doing something to increase the tax burden on the richer segment of the population to reduce the widening disparity between the rich and poor."


The disposable splints of wood, usually between eight and 10 inches long, have long been a target for Chinese environmentalists.

School children have written to the Chinese prime minister asking for a ban on disposable wooden chopsticks, while students have persuaded some college cafeterias to replace them with spoons.

In recent years, the government has actually encouraged their use, in a bid to reduce the spread of infectious illnesses by sharing eating utensils.

Man eating noodles with disposable chopsticks
Chinese diners are encouraged to bring their own chopsticks

Shanghai consumers gave a mixed response to the new tax.

"I think the shop owner should pay for it," one person told the BBC.

"It's no use, people will still throw it everywhere after they have their food and people will still buy disposable chopsticks," was the view of another citizen who doubted if the tax would help protect the environment.

But others were in favour:

"It has some good impact. It will make people buy less disposable products and buy more durable ones."

Car tax

Many of the other tax increases are part of China's attempts to curb the demand for luxury goods in its cities, which has expanded rapidly as the growing economy has drawn people in from rural areas.

Despite the rising incomes for many urban workers, an estimated 200 million Chinese still live on less than $1 a day each.

The government has raised the tax on cars with engines bigger than 2 litres from 8% to 20%, as it looks to reduce pollution and oil consumption.

Cars with smaller engines, between 1 and 1.5 litres, will have their taxes cut to 3% from 5%.

China is now the world's third-biggest vehicle market after the US and Japan, and this has driven up its oil consumption. Cars now account for one-third of China's oil use.

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