As resources on our planet are finite, finding innovative ways to produce building materials has become more important. In Vancouver, Canada one company created a process for recycling used chopsticks into a wood source that can be used to build everything from dominoes to custom furniture.
Since 2016, ChopValue has upcycled over 33 million single use chopsticks that would have ended up in landfills. Their mission is to ‘make a difference, one chopstick at a time.’
First, they saw the problem; in Vancouver alone, 100,000 chopsticks were being thrown away by restaurants. Then, ChopValue saw an opportunity to ‘urban harvest’ them from city eateries before they were tossed out. Urban harvesting is identifying and extracting wasted resources, rather than using virgin materials from the environment. Chopsticks are the perfect urban harvested material.
Felix Bock, founder and CEO, calls himself a garbage man with a PhD. Company philosophy is to participate in the circular economy by giving ‘wasted’ items new life as useful products. For resources to last, we must move away from a reliance on single use items and creatively recycle and upcycle the ones that are here.
After gathering used chopsticks from city restaurants, batches of wooden tiles are created. Chopsticks are sorted into stacks using a custom-built sorting table. They are then dipped into a water-based resin bath that coats the chopsticks. They are roasted in a 200 degree oven for 5 hours killing any germs. After the roast, they are separated, weighed, and compressed with hundreds of pounds of pressure. The compressed chopsticks are turned into wooden tiles.
Another custom-built piece of machinery creates the chopstick tiles. Bock calls the compression ‘the heart of the process.’ The finished product is a uniform engineered piece of material that is sanded and can be transformed into anything.
Currently, their best seller is coasters, however, ChopValue also builds desks, hexagon wall tiles and shelving, wooden games, and cheese and charcuterie boards. Upcoming products include a line of shelving and storage solutions. One of their newest innovations is a rectangular wood board that can be used on walls or imbedded into staircase, much like a tile. They also create custom furniture.
Their modern, minimalist designs complement the notion that sustainability can be beautiful and good for the environment. ChopValue believes in their products, but also in their mission to reduce waste and be part of the circular economy. By shepherding materials through the cycle of initial use, collection, manufacturing, and reuse as a product, ChopValue is able to create beautiful, sustainable products for commercial and residential uses.
In the big picture, Block believes that having a coaster or a shelf made entirely of recycled chopsticks can spark conversation about bigger issues of conservation and sustainability, and that’s a good thing.