Made Out of WHAT
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Design stories from the circular economy. Highlighting artists, designers, and innovators who are using trash as their raw material.

Japanese company turns baseball bats into chopsticks

 
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Made Out of WHAT admires Japan due to its ingrained affinity for respectful minimalist lifestyles and design as well as a strong recycling culture. Our latest innovation discovery delighted us, with baseball being the name of the game.

Language often reveals threads that weave into a community’s cultural fabric, and the Japanese language has many of these linguistic gems. ‘Kitsugi’ is the art of fixing broken objects and emphasising the cracks with gold colour. The underlying symbol that comes across in this art form is the importance of finding beauty in imperfection. Echoing kitsugi culture, the island country is also pioneering the art of transforming baseball bats into an essential eating utensil - durable chopsticks.

Just like in the US, baseball is an important sport in Japan and the island country has been historically famous for producing high-quality baseball bats made out of the durable yet endangered ‘Aodamo’ tree species. Today, baseball bats are made out of other timbers while the coveted aodamo is no longer being felled until the forests are replenished, which may take over 50 years. The fate of broken baseball bats used to be burned or discarded until Hyugoo Uratani, CEO of chopsticks producer Hyzozaemon, came onto the scene. Uratani decided to change the fate of the splintered bats by transforming them into chopsticks that double up as team memorabilia. Further honouring the Aodamo tree, Uratani also brilliantly turned the endeavour into a social enterprise by convincing the Nippon Professional Baseball organisation to donate money to the Aodamo Preservation Society. Around 10,000 bats are now being repurposed into chopsticks each sport season.


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Creative initiatives like this are an important part of the promotion of re-usability to help tackle our global single-use consumer culture. Japan alone chops its way through 25 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks every year, which is enough timber to build 17,000 large houses. Not to mention China’s huge consumption rates as well as restaurants in the west that are not exempt from disposable chopstick culture. Just like our push to reduce single-use plastic by getting into the habit of using reusable coffee cups, cutlery, and water bottles, the Japanese have their own movement dubbed “My-hashi” in “Jap-lish” to encourage people to bring their own chopsticks (maybe even ones made of re-purposed baseball bats.)



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Taking a step out of the diamond, this waste-conscious culture goes hand-in-hand with the Japanese penchant towards minimalism. A recent popular Netflix series called “Tidying up with Marie Kondo” reveals our thirst for a more simple and stripped-down lifestyle. The series follows Kondo, a Japanese domestic goddess, as she is welcomed into American homes to teach families the art of respecting your property by having only what you need and taking good care of your belongings. At the heart of this public yearning towards minimalist culture lies a deeper need to respect objects and ultimately natural resources, just like the baseball-bats-to-chopsticks initiative. Perhaps our globalized throw-away mentality, filling our landfills and oceans with short-lived consumer goods, has something to learn from Japanese minimalism?

Tina Ateljevic

Tina AteljevicComment