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ChopValue is turning throwaway chopsticks into furniture

The Canadian-based company has just diverted its hundred-millionth chopstick away from landfill. These throwaway items are being transformed into furniture and even resturant interiors at McDonald’s.

When tucking into some lunchtime ramen, we scarcely think about how our chopsticks came to be or where they will ultimately end up.

Well, for an item that serves its entire life purpose in around a half hour, North America reportedly imports between 40 to 50 billion pairs every single year. The majority of inventory is made of bamboo and comes from China, meaning its perpetually ferried thousands of miles overseas.

Unless you’re Joey Tribbiani from Friends, these sticks usually end up in the trash after use, meaning tons of potentially useful bamboo is left to degrade in landfill. Canadian company ChopValue is striving to end this waste, however, having just diverted its hundred-millionth chopstick from obsolete oblivion.

Credit: ChopValue

Operating in 12 cities around the world, the resourceful firm collects these utensils from restaurant chains like Wagamama and P.F. Chang’s, cafeterias from schools and universities, and corporate offices from partners including Slack and Vancouver International Airport.

All have been provided with dedicated wood/bamboo recycling bins which are collected weekly. The goods are then delivered to the nearest ‘decentralised micro-factory’ which the company claims has prevented some 138,000kg of CO2 through short-distance transportation.

After what ChopValue calls this ‘urban harvest,’ the sticks are sanitised, sorted, and applied with a water-based resin. Once dried in ovens and compacted in a hydraulic press, the material is transformed into solid tiles that form the modular basis of a range of sellable goods.

The shippable consumer items range from kitchen tabletops, gaming desks, cabinets, cheeseboards, decorative frames, and even original game pieces like dominoes and Cribbage boards.

The prices aren’t extortionate versus standard market counterparts, especially considering the level of workmanship and procurement of unique materials. But, there are also cheaper accessories like phone stands and laptop stands, should you wish to show your support without breaking the bank.

For a sense of scale, around 350,000 chopsticks are collected every week from Vancouver alone and about 10,000 chopsticks are required to create a single desk – of which 8 to 10 are typically built daily. As its founder and CEO, Felix Bock, says: ‘This is not a little arts and crafts project.’

In-fact, ChopValue has just partnered with McDonald’s to kit out three pilot restaurants in Canada with sustainable tabletops and wall accents. In its burgeoning phase, it has already created all of the furniture for a chain of eateries in West Canada called Pacific Poke.

Sales at Asian fast food establishments reportedly grew 135% between 1999 and 2015, and you can bet that will only increase in future years. Business could soon be booming for ChopValue.

‘The sheer volume of chopsticks made me realise that even the smallest things can work in a viable circular economy, as long as you do it the right way,’ declares Bock.