A research interest in bamboo and a love for sushi has inspired a University of British Columbia student to launch a line of home décor products made from recycled chopsticks.
Called ChopValue, the startup is the brainchild of Felix Böck, a doctoral student in the faculty of forestry, who studies bamboo as a building material.
“When I first started collecting chopsticks for research, I didn’t realize how many are thrown out,” said Böck, who estimates at least 100,000 chopsticks are thrown out every day in Metro Vancouver. “It made sense to me to try and do something innovative with them.”
The budding entrepreneur created ChopValue and has now set up branded recycling bins at more than a dozen restaurants in Kitsilano. The servers at each restaurant discard any used bamboo chopsticks in their bin, which is picked up and switched out weekly by Hugh Grady, a UBC co-op student who helps with development and operations. Each bin can hold roughly 30 pounds of used chopsticks.
According to Böck, ChopValue provides participating restaurants the incentives of a free recycling program, the opportunity to become more environmentally-friendly, and a savings in waste disposal. The City of Vancouver charges for waste disposal based on weight, so recycling chopsticks can help a business cut costs. In time, the startup hopes to have more bins at restaurants across the city.
Back at the UBC lab, the startup’s prototype facility, the chopsticks are cleaned, coated in resin and then hot pressed down flat into square tiles. The finished products are made from hundreds of chopsticks and range from coasters to shelves to table tops.
Böck is looking for a permanent manufacturing facility and plans to officially launch the startup’s products at the Interior Design Show (IDS West) in Vancouver, September 22 – 25. ChopValue is already taking orders with product delivery planned to start in mid-October.
To learn more about the startup, click here.
For product photos, click here.