Waste not, Wontons: Innovator recycles 32 million chopsticks from restaurants

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Felix Böck started tiny but developed a business that transforms utensils from new dining tables to stairs into anything.

The notion was born over sushi trays. Felix Böck, then a PhD student at the University of British Columbia in Canada, was disappointed at the lack of interest in his plan to use demolition and construction site wood waste. How could he, he wondered, reassure people that there was no excess, only wasted resources? Thalia Otamendi, now his fiancée, stared at him with chopsticks in his hand. “She said, ‘Felix, maybe you just need to start with something small,'” Böck said. “And maybe it’s the chopstick. ” He began to work on the concept the next day, outlining plans for ChopValue, a startup that would give a second life to used chopsticks. The proposals were soon implemented: recycling bins were installed in restaurants in Vancouver, methods for cleaning the utensils were mastered and a process was created to transform the chopsticks – most of which are made of bamboo – into elegant household products ranging from tablet stands to tabletops. Four years later, more than 32 million chopsticks were recycled through ChopValue – eliminating landfills and providing “These chopsticks travel 6,000 miles to end up on your dining table in 20 to 30 minutes,” says Böck, 31. The startup has extended its reach throughout North America. Calgary, Montreal and Los Angeles are all using the method that uses heat, steam and pressure to transform the chopsticks into wood tiles. Chopsticks are collected from hundreds of restaurants, as well as locations such as malls, airports and universities; ChopValue alone in Vancouver claims it receives about 350,000 chopsticks per w.

But the moment someone reminds us of this topic that’s right in front of us, there’s an instant moment of aha. Pacific Poke, a restaurant chain in western Canada, was among the first companies to partner with ChopValue. “Among the first companies to work with ChopValue is Pacific Poke, a restaurant chain in western Canada. ” We wondered, why didn’t anybody think of this before? ” says co-founder Dong Lam. “A good example of the circular economy that ChopValue wants to foster is the restaurant chain. Most stores display artwork and tabletops once used in the restaurant, crafted from chopsticks. “We want to go into mass production, just on a local scale,” says Böck. His aim is to build a network of franchises through which chopsticks are purchased from local restaurants and manufactured in nearby microfactories, with locally distributed finished goods. The company’s products are currently sold via its website and through collaborations with retailers such as Nordstrom in the United States. A reference to its former life is included in each piece, such as the 886 chopsticks used to make a butcher block or the 9,600 chopsticks used to make a home work desk. “We made money from day one,” Böck says. “His hope is that ChopValue can get people to reconsider what they see as waste, and the “crazy idea” behind it. “There’s this corny saying that every little move counts,” he said. “But in a really realistic and exciting way, I think we’re proving that.”

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