Chopsticks have been around for almost 4000 years, but they also present quite an environmental problem. It is estimated that just in China, around 80 billion chopsticks are thrown away every year, with the number much higher if we factor in all the Asian food restaurants around the world. I’ve often wondered, when eating at an Asian restaurant, what happens to the used disposable chopsticks. And so have the founders of the Vancouver, Canada based startup Chopvalue. They went a step further, and founded a project that turns used chopsticks into awesome pieces of modern furniture and home accessories.
Felix Böck, the founder of Chopvalue is a PhD student at the faculty of forestry at the University of British Columbia. According to his research, over 100,000 pairs of chopsticks get sent to the landfill every day just in Vancouver. That is quite an alarming statistic, which is why he decided to try and offset this waste. He started out by purchasing recycling bins, and asked restaurant owners to use them for throwing away the disposable bamboo chopsticks. Once full, the contents were collected and taken to the Chopvalue lab. There they were first cleaned, then coated in resin and finally hot-pressed with a machine, which yielded a flat board.
These bamboo boards can be cut and assembled to build a wide range of furniture and other accessories for the home, such as tables, shelves, coasters, cutting boards and more. For example, a side table they made reuses almost 4000 chopsticks, while the base for it is made from steel that was salvaged from local demolition sites.
The company was started in July 2016, and thus far, they have already successfully recycled 800,000 chopsticks. The recycling service Chopvalue offers to restaurants is also free of charge and greatly reduces their waste production and consequently the costs associated with waste disposal. This is a great example of how a simple idea executed by a small company can have a far-reaching positive effect on the environment.