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Recycled Chopsticks Making Sustainable Furniture

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

While eating at a sushi restaurant five years ago, Felix Böck remembers venting to his wife about the disparity between living a circular economy versus just talking about it. "Felix, sometimes you have to start very small," she said. As he watched a waiter toss used chopsticks in the trash, an idea surfaced: "What if I start "really" small, with chopsticks?"


Furniture made from chop sticks
Credit: Chop Value

The day after his sushi dinner, Böck set to work. He brought bins for used chopsticks to restaurants in his Vancouver neighborhood, and picked them up weekly. "The restaurant owners were happy because they have less trash to get rid of; I am happy because I can use a precious resource, and the customer gets high-quality products."


Böck's 35 employees now collect 330,000 chopsticks from restaurants in Vancouver each week.


Most chopsticks are made from bamboo, a fast-growing plant that is very strong. With the need for wood increasing by 60 percent worldwide in the last 60 years - way more than can be logged sustainably - bamboo has often been touted as a sound alternative. Böck wanted to demonstrate bamboo’s potential as a wood replacement and keep chopsticks out of landfills. He has successfully built Chop Value into a business that does both, all while keeping the sourcing and production local.


Since he started, Böck has diverted over 77 million chopsticks from the landfill in Canada, Asia and the U.S. From Bali to Boston, Singapore to Liverpool, his 60 microfactories now turn chopsticks into desks, shelves, cutting boards, and more.


At one Vancouver restaurant, Pacific Poke, customers eat at tables in front of wall panels made from chopsticks of previous customers.

 

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