Have you ever wondered what happens to the chopsticks we carelessly throw away after using them only once? Well, unsurprisingly, the vast majority of them end up in landfills, further contributing to the insurmountable pile of waste burdening waste management capacities.
In a bid to instead give them a second purpose, a Canadian startup came up with a brilliant idea of breathing new life into single-use chopsticks — most of which are made of bamboo — by upcycling them into sleek household items that range from tablet stands to tabletops.
Since it started four years ago, ChopValue has recycled more than 32m chopsticks, diverting them from landfills and employing over 40 people in the process. “These chopsticks travel 6,000 miles to arrive on your dining table for 20 to 30 minutes,” said Felix Böck, the startup’s founder. “You can’t possibly feel good about throwing them out afterwards.”
The startup has now expanded its impact across North America with its process — which uses heat, steam, and pressure to transform the chopsticks into wooden tiles — now also being used in big cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Montreal.
The chopsticks are sourced from restaurants, airports, and malls, with around 350,000 chopsticks going through the company’s local micro-factories each week, in every city, they are located.
At the moment, the company’s products are sold online as well as through partnerships with retailers such as Nordstrom in the US. With each item comes a hint of its previous life, detailing, for example, the 886 chopsticks that were required for making a butcher’s block or the 9,600 chopsticks used for a home office desk.
Through ChopValue, Böck hopes to contribute towards a more sustainable consumption paradigm and prompt people to reconsider what they see as waste. “There’s this cheesy saying that every small action matters,” he said. “But I think we’re proving that in a fairly practical and exciting way.”
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