Food for Thought: Canadian Start-up Recycles Used Chopsticks to Make Household Items
At a time when the world is facing a major challenge in the form of solid waste management owing to rapid industrialization and consumerism that has put a huge burden on the planet, a Canadian start-up has found a novel way to do its bit for the cause.
Felix Böck, the founder of the start-up, came up with a brilliant idea while he was sitting with his girlfriend in a restaurant having sushi. He wanted to convince people about his idea to recycle waste wood from construction sites but got little acceptance. It was his girlfriend Thalia Otamendi who suggested him to start with something small, like the chopstick she was holding. A few hurdles later, ChopValue was born.
Felix chalked out a plan to create a mechanism to collect used chopsticks from the restaurants and transform them into simple wooden household items that could be used as decor or for a range of other practical applications like tablet stands and tabletops.
In the last four years, the start-up has recycled over 32 million chopsticks and has created employment for 40 people. Thirty-one-year-old Bock said that the chopsticks travel thousands of miles before reaching the dining table and are discarded just 20 to 30 minutes after its use. He wanted to do something about it.
ChopValue collects used chopsticks from various restaurants spread across North America and then processes them with a special technique using heat, steam and pressure to turn them into wooden tiles. The company claims to collect around 350,000 used chopsticks a week from Vancouver alone.
Bock said that he still gets the same look like day one whenever he asks restaurant managers to put a recycle bin for chopsticks. “It’s one of these little things that we neglect. But as soon as someone reminds us of the problem which is right in front of us, it creates that immediate Aha! Moment,” he said.
ChopValue has collaborated with Pacific Poke, a restaurant chain spread in western Canada. Dong Lam, the co-founder of Pacific Poke, found it a great idea and wondered why no one thought of it before. He said that they sell a couple of hundred bowls a day which adds up to a significant number of used chopsticks.
Bock wishes to export his model globally and wants to mass-produce but on a local scale. The company currently sells its products online through its website and through some partner retailers like Nordstrom in the US, Simons and Inspiration Furniture in Canada.