Home decor products made from recycled chopsticks – an eco-friendly initiative by ChopValue

ChopValue is the new genius initiative redefining waste, and taking Vancouver by storm. It was founded by Felix Böck, Wood Science and Engineering graduate, and current PHD student at UBC, who became interested in bamboo through his work and research over the years. Here at Kabuni, we’re delighted to bring this fascinating story to our community. As one of our featured makers, ChopValue will be at our Spotlight Social on January 5, 2017, displaying three new organically inspired tables.

Vancouver, BC, known for its gourmet sushi, is home to 2,000 restaurants currently using disposable wooden chopsticks which are 85% bamboo. But this large appetite for asian food comes at the cost of the environment and astronomical waste – some 100,000 or so of these chopsticks are being sent straight to landfill every day. Felix Böck, a sushi lover himself, set about brainstorming how to extend the lifecycle beyond the typical 1 hour of these single-use utensils – and ChopValue was born.

Working with restaurants around Vancouver city, ChopValue’s innovative and sustainable artisan products for the home are another step towards a greener planet. Recycling used wooden chopsticks, ChopValue creates a wide array of home decor products. You don’t have to sacrifice beauty when creating products friendly for the planet, as ChopValue has proved; their beautifully handcrafted coasters, are durable and long lasting. They absorb very little moisture (one of bamboo’s unique properties), and are therefore less likely to shrink and bend – a bonus over the more traditionally made coasters.

But how are these sustainable, artisan pieces made? Felix collects used wooden chopsticks from participating restaurants and takes them to his workshop to prepare them for their second lifecycle. They go through the process of being cleaned and sanitized, re-stained and then hot pressed into square tiles before being sawed and turned into home decor and utensils. 

The idea started as a side project one summer's evening and was debuted in September at IDS West. Due to the rapid growth of the project and the expansion of the collection, Felix moved the production to a new facility where he now works with his team. Since July 2016, ChopValue have recycled an impressive 847,957 chopsticks – around 1,800 of these would make a coffee tabletop.

Bamboo related products have enjoyed a growth spurt in recent years, especially in the home; fuelled by consumers growing demands, companies have jumped on the eco-friendly  bandwagon and added many bamboo products to their customer offering. After all, the benefits of this fast growing, wooden grass are many; not only is it a renewable and sustainable material, but being durable, versatile, strong, lightweight, and toxic free, bamboo products become an increasingly attractive option for any home dweller. But the real value of ChopValue is its recycling of used goods; merely giving a second life to something that has already been produced and supporting a zero waste society.

ChopValue hopes that sparking people’s interest in recycling in imaginative ways, will encourage companies to extend the lifecycle of one of Vancouver’s most beloved objects. It seems to be a win-win for all involved, and for the environment - reduced waste, and cost saving for restaurants’ garbage collection, as well as enhancing their own green image. Furthermore, locals can now eat sushi with a free conscience at those restaurants participating in Chopvalue’s eco-friendly mission.

By Clare Langrishe

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