Armed with the mindset that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, businessman Felix Böck built a company centered around an item that’s commonly thrown away: the wooden chopstick.
Böck’s company, ChopValue, has a simple concept: upcycle used chopsticks into fashionable and functional pieces of home decor and furniture. As of April 3, 7-year-old ChopValue has recycled 100 million chopsticks to build everything from coasters to desks, according to an announcement posted on Twitter.
[ANNOUNCEMENT] Today marks two major milestones — @ChopValue raises $7.7M Growth Funding to Scale our Circular Global Microfactory Network and Recycled our 100 Millionth Chopsticks to date. Read more about the exciting news: https://t.co/WkGSUJO38y pic.twitter.com/vtOGqNqqNN
— ChopValue (@ChopValue) April 3, 2023
ChopValue started in Vancouver, Canada, but now has facilities in cities around the world, including Bali, Boston, Las Vegas, Mexico City, Singapore and more. Each location has a microfactory, a small factory established via a franchise program that helps minimize the costs and environmental impacts of shipping materials and products for processing and construction to one large central facility, Fast Company reports.
Böck told Apartment Therapy the idea for ChopValue came to him back in 2016 while he was enjoying sushi at a restaurant in Vancouver. He started thinking about how many pairs of chopsticks get tossed each day. After doing some research, the numbers shocked him.
“In Vancouver alone, we’re throwing out 100,000 chopsticks a day,” he said in the interview. “They’re traveling 6,000 or 7,000 miles from where they’re manufactured in Asia to end up on our lunch table for 30 minutes.”
And that’s only a fraction of the single-use chopsticks that get used and discarded around the world each year. Approximately 80 billion pairs are made and exported to restaurants globally. This mass consumption of single-use chopsticks has environmental impacts such as deforestation and massive landfill consumption.
“Our two main goals are to make money and be carbon neutral, and we are proving that there are solutions out there to do that,” Böck told Globalshakers.com.
So, how do you make beautiful furniture out of old chopsticks?
Evelyn Hew, co-owner of the ChopValue microfactory in Singapore explained the company’s partnership with local restaurants — which enables it to collect up to 99,000 pairs of chopsticks each week — to Yahoo News.
“Our team provides them the convenience of free collection and recycling bins for chopsticks,” Hew said. “This reduces their waste and trips to waste collection points.”
Once the chopsticks arrive at the local microfactory, they go through a rigorous preparation process, including sterilization and then reformulation into pressed wooden tiles. These tiles get assembled into the products the company sells in its shops and online.
ChopValue shared a video that shows how the chopsticks are turned into a pressed board that becomes their top of their workstation desk:
Pretty cool, eh?
Böck hopes his business model inspires others to find ways to upcycle commonly disposed items from restaurants and other locations.
“I think change starts small, and change can be a very relatable thing that we all know from daily life,” Böck told Apartment Therapy. “Right now, we’re focusing on the chopstick because it’s a very powerful story, but I think there are so many other urban resources where we can make this work.”