At the time, broken bats were mostly given away or burned in barrels to keep players warm during spring training, Mr. Minatoya said. The bats-into-chopsticks idea, he said through an interpreter, allowed Japanese baseball “to start having a conscience about recycling.”
He helped persuade the 12 teams in Japan’s Central and Pacific Leagues to participate. Hyozaemon pays a licensing fee to put team logos on its chopsticks. In turn, Nippon Professional Baseball, Japan’s equivalent of Major League Baseball, makes an annual contribution of 3.5 million yen, or about $31,000, to the nonprofit Aodamo Preservation Society.
The money is used to plant aodamo seedlings on Hokkaido. Other baseball entities contribute 2.5 million yen, about $22,000, to the aodamo nonprofit, while Hyozaemon contributes an additional 100,000 yen, about $900, said Masayuki Naito, the nonprofit’s secretary general. More than 10,000 trees have been planted so far, he said.
Hyozaemon said it collects an average of 10,000 broken bats each season. They are gathered by a courier service, whose records indicate it collected approximately 2,180 bats in July, August and September from professional and industrial leagues and from collegiate teams that still use wood, unlike American universities, which use metal bats.
Only the barrel of the bat is considered thick enough to make chopsticks, while the tapered portion toward the handle can be repurposed into shoehorns and handles for forks and spoons. The cap of the bat can be made into a drinking cup.
The barrel is sawed from the handle, sliced vertically into thin blocks then sanded by craftsmen into the shape of chopsticks. Team logos are imprinted, and layers of lacquer are applied.