Artist Uses Chopsticks to Demonstrate Waste
July 7, 2009 | by RMJ

Typical mediums for art include paint, clay, and perhaps film. But one artist has turned to dining utensils in her artwork.


Donna Keiko Ozawa, a Japanese-American who lives in San Francisco, uses chopsticks in her Waribashi project to make a point about wastefulness and environmental responsibility. She fashions washed and dried chopsticks into primitive, abstract installations held together through the manipulation of static electricity, gravity, and drilled holes.


Ozawa sees the disposable wooden chopsticks that have become an essential part of pan-Asian culture and cuisine as threats to the environment. Over 70 billion waribashi – wari means “break,” and bashi is another way to say hashi, or chopstick – are used annually in China and Japan, constituting a huge drain on natural resources.


“I feel like chopsticks are just raining down,” she says. “I have anxiety about disposable chopsticks. In 1999, before I went to Japan, they were just stats, shocking ones and huge numbers, but still just numbers. Then I saw how many used ones I could collect that were going straight to the landfill. Eleven little noodle shops in 12 days. 15,000-plus waribashi.”


Ozawa, who has displayed her Waribashi project in San Francisco and Tokyo, suggests that lovers of sushi and other Asian cuisine use reusable chopsticks instead.

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Rachel is a writer and tutor living in Virginia. She loves learning about other cultures and thinks we’re all a little wacky.

Latest posts by RMJ (see all)

  • I admit that I am no art critic however, I think the art looks just like used chopsticks. Build with then,have fun with them,but for crying out loud,make it into something pleasing to the eye if you are going to sell it to the public.Most of the art work would make a rat blush with shame at having to use it for a nest.

    • True. Also, why couldn't someone just make a "chopsticks waste" bin to recycle them like we already do with cans and other recyclables? They could be turned into cheap paper or particle board or something. Seems like a simple fix to a simple problem…

      • Wouldn't it be simpler to just use reusable ones? Recycling materials takes a lot of energy and more importantly, uses a lot of water, a precious resource which we are quickly running out of.

    • Art isn't about the public's approval, it's about evoking an emotional response while bringing something new to the table. I actually think Ozawa's works are innovative. Also, photos don't do justice for her works; you can't judge a piece of art work, especially a large scale, 3-D work, by some low-resolution pictures.

    • My first thought, it looks like a bird's nest of some similar kind.

  • if your trying to make a statement about how wasteful wooden chopsticks are… please don't waste a bunch of wooden chopsticks to make the point

  • When you find your ‘other stick’, anything is possible.
    Search Chopstick Theory on Youtube.

  • Goode for her. I've been seeing the numbers of reusable chopsticks and it's just ridiculous. Disposable culture has gone way too far, but it's only getting worse. Really? We can't wash utinsils anymore? I know it's hard work and all…

  • You don't throw away forks knives spoons so why chopsticks?

    Make that into an add

    Have a bunch of typical scenes in everyday Asian lives but instead of them throwing away chopsticks have them throw away other cutlery, "a woman is making tea in a kitchen, uses a metal tea spoon and drops it in the bin" "Family sitting around a table finishing dinner with family heirlooms says so during the meal afterwords someone offers to clean up takes all cutlery and plates and throws them all into the bin" Last scene "a big pile of metal cutlery sits in a pile on top of a tip morphs into same size pile of chopsticks" no words just images.

    The Asian culture needs to change and make chopsticks into something personal, i.e. make each person have there own personal chopsticks that they take care of and use. Traditions are easy to change and start just need enough high profile people to do it everyone else will follow.

    Pity my genius will go to waste.


    • you have a point but remember, A lot of Americans throw away paper plates and plastic cutlery. We could all do a little better about using the real things.use loose tea instead of bags,ground coffee instead of those cute little pods.We could all do some better.

    • I used to work at MCD (McDonalds), the amazing amount of wastage. Just open a bin one day and take a look. All the plastic utensils, sundae containers, the disposable cups, etc. And tell me you've not seen MCD rubbish laying all over the place.
      Maybe they need a new MCD BYO reusable cup system.

    • Because Asians are obviously the only people who waste utensils.

      Take a look at the trashbin of any fastfood restraunt and you will see how many plastic spoons, forks, and knives are thrown away in a single DAY.

      Everyone should conserve resources, not just Asian cultures that are apparently the only ones that need to change.

  • I think most "1st world" countries are guilty of being a throw-away culture. While it's quite staggering to look at all the wood being used & thrown away for this porject, at least wood is biodegradable. If you are among those who despise this sort of waste, do NOT buy the single serving products, bring your own plates/cups/cutlery to use vs. the throw away models & do your best to recycle or reuse whatever you can & perhaps making a compost heap. The "juicebox" generation needs redirection & that will start with you leading the way.

  • Start a bring your own chopsticks (BYOC) program. How about a 5% – 10% discount thing.

  • How about just using a fork?
    You can wash those?
    Sorry, too easy?
    I know, lets have a think tank session and get 500 people to submit ideas and then call Al Gore.
    And get his approval before we do anything.

  • I don't think this art is particularly good. That just looks like a bunch of random freaking chop sticks glued together. The only thought it evokes is, "Somebody better clean this shit up."

  • Nonsense. Chopsticks in the dumps mean that the carbon dioxide is used from the atmosphere and trapped in waste dumps. Disposable wooden chopsticks is awesome. Disposables are saving the world.

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