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Edible chopsticks are finally here–and they come in 3 flavors

Chinese-delivery service Eleme makes its edible chopsticks with sugar, butter, and flour

Edible chopsticks are finally here–and they come in 3 flavors
[Illustration: Ollanski]

Last February, China’s leading food-delivery platform, Alibaba-owned Eleme, began offering customers a delicious new way to help the planet: edible chopsticks. China produces more than 57 billion pairs of disposable, sometimes chemically treated, wood chopsticks for use around the world each year, the equivalent of felling roughly 3.8 million trees annually. Much of this wood comes from a region that has struggled with widespread deforestation. Instead of wood, Eleme’s chopsticks are made of wheat flour blended with icing sugar, milk powder, butter, and water, and come in three flavors: wheat, matcha, and purple sweet potato. Each pair is sheathed in colorful recycled paper and made locally. The effort grew out of an in-house push toward more sustainable practices. The company’s R&D team worked alongside creative agency FF Shanghai to figure out how to get customers to embrace similar values. “In China, people love new things,” says Feng Huang, the president and executive creative director at FF Shanghai. “At the same time, more and more care about the environment.” The edible chopsticks satisfy both. The effort kicked off with 43 partner restaurant chains, and Eleme gave out 250,000 utensils in the first week alone. Within the first six months, the company surpassed 100 chains and has produced more than 10 million pairs, many of which are now carried inhouse at restaurants. It’s one small shift for eaters, but the global impact is growing daily.

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About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.

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