The idea came to founder Felix Böck in 2016 while eating sushi with his partner. Böck, frustrated about the 600,000 tonnes of waste produced in Vancouver each year as a result of demolition and construction, had proposed a project to take material from those worksites and reuse it in the wood industry -- but it produced minimal interest from stakeholders.
At dinner that evening, his partner glanced down at their chopsticks and suggested starting a bit smaller, with something more tangible.
As Böck began to consider the concept, he realized he could repurpose used chopsticks to create a viable business model in the circular economy, saving materials that would otherwise be discarded as waste -- and prove the naysayers wrong.
Since then, ChopValue has recycled nearly 30 million bamboo chopsticks. The company has partnered with more than 300 restaurants to source its used chopsticks -- collecting roughly 350,000 chopsticks each week -- which are converted into new material through a combination of heat, steam and pressure.
When the chopsticks arrive at ChopValue’s Microfactories, they are cleaned and aligned together before being coated in a water-based resin. From there, they head to the oven to dry out and then to the hydraulic press where they are shaped into tiles, the building blocks of all the company’s products. The process takes about six hours and involves consistently high temperatures, which helps sterilize the new material before it’s used to create the various finished products ChopValue offers.
“We sell a wide variety of sustainable WFH and lifestyle products, such as height-adjustable desks, coasters, serving boards, and C-Side tables — all of which can be personalized with engraving,” marketing manager Alison Lee said, noting ChopValue’s ability to customize items means its products are popular as gifts for everything from weddings to corporate gifts to housewarming presents.
While the wall decor and coasters that marked ChopValue’s first foray into the sustainable design marketplace remain its most popular products, the company is getting ready to begin manufacturing its newest offering, SMILE, a modular shelving system. As with all ChopValue products, each shelf is carbon negative, storing more carbon dioxide inside it than was used to produce and deliver it.
The company currently manufactures its product line at Microfactories in Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal, where it can also create custom items for other businesses -- things like community tables, wall panelling and retail display units. But with the launch of its turnkey Microfactory franchise concept this spring, it’s clear ChopValue is targeting expansion on a global scale.
“We are focusing on educating the importance of ‘made local’ to customers,” Lee said. “With a network of Microfactories, we operate based on the needs of each respective community, making sure we utilize local resources. This also means a decreased distance for transportation of goods, leading to lower shipping costs and faster lead times.”
“With Microfactories operating in multiple cities, we can truly be local, wherever our customers are, for a more efficient process while being a carbon-negative company.”
Oyster Promo is pleased to offer custom ChopValue products that can be engraved with your design.
Written by Diana Foxall