Instead of letting discarded chopsticks gather in landfills, Vancouver-based startup ‘ChopValue’ sees the utensil better elsewhere: in our homes and in yoga studios.
With Vancouver’s insatiable appetite for sushi, it’s inevitable that thousands of single-use chopsticks – more than 100,000 to be specific – get disposed of daily. Bothered by this extremely wasteful system, local forestry student Felix Bock decided to reuse the otherwise perfectly good material.
His startup ‘ChopValue’, collects some 250,000 used bamboo chopsticks a week from over 100 restaurants around the city. They then turn the items into drink coasters, wall tiles, shelving units, and side tables. They’re even planning to sell a recycled-bamboo yoga block, with each one using up 800 to 1,000 chopsticks.
To date, the startup has upcycled more than 1.5 million chopsticks.
“It should be normality to think twice if we can reuse a material or not before we throw it away,” said German-born Böck, who is finishing a thesis on structural bamboo. “For me, it’s very normal and very natural to use a material that was previously defined as waste. I define it as resource.”
We recently had the chance to chat with Bock to know more about ‘ChopValue’ and their work:
How did you get the business started? And what was the first product you made out of chopsticks?
“We needed to make sure that there was resource material available to become a viable business, so we started a pilot recycling program with restaurants who we thought would have a similar mindset as us in the Kitsilano area, and tested out the responsiveness of the participating restaurants.
“Last fall, we launched our first product line at the Interior Design show, which consisted of wall tiles, shelving units and coasters.”
You continue to come up with different products, from side tables to shelving units to yoga blocks. What’s your creative process when it comes to coming up with new designs? What new products should we look forward to?
“No matter what we design, we wanted to be sure we show how performance meets design. Being in Vancouver, people tend to be in a green/sustainability mindset, so design things that Vancouverites could use in their daily lives or things that would spark interest with the locals. So what better way to incorporate that with Vancouver’s favorite pass-times: yoga and sushi.
“We have been working a lot with the restaurants themselves to create products for their restaurant, and through some prototyping and experimentation, we started creating some kitchenware products as well. Maybe, later this month you’ll be able to officially see our end-grain chopping board.”
Do you have plans of upcycling other materials other than chopsticks?
“We are hoping that by establishing ChopValue as a circular economically company, we set an example for redefining the term waste to resource and hopefully inspire others to start projects where they take an item, typically considered waste, find value in that material and upcycle to create another beautiful product that extends its lifetime.”
What’s your vision for ChopValue? Any plans of expanding to other cities or countries?
“We definitely hope to expand and implement more ChopValue facilities around the globe. We want to make sure we do things right in this city before we start with a second location. To firmly establish who we are and what we stand for in our company before we can successfully replicate this further.”