The waste problem. It’s not another person’s problem. More like not another “country’s” problem. This convenient set of sticks is now widely used not only in Asia, including Japan but in the entire world. Bamboo chopsticks are disposable, and they are harming the environment.
That is so Mottainai! A Canadian company based in Vancouver called ChopValue found a solution to that problem. (Finally, someone is taking actions!)
Now you might wonder why bamboos? The reason for that is that the bamboo as a material is relatively strong against cracking and tangling. It will keep its shape for a long time and, thus, is the best material for recycling. Moreover, recycling bamboo enables the company to produce eco-friendly, sustainable house decore and furniture, which is not something that we often stumble upon yet in our society. Our journey for recycling and upcycling has just started. ChopValue makes it possible to give the old bamboo chopsticks new lives.
As you can see in the image, 100,000 chopsticks are thrown away EVERYDAY in Vancouver. The number is c. 114,000 pairs on average in one prefecture in Japan. That’s around 19.5 billion chopsticks/per year all over Japan. They say you can build 20,000 wooden houses with that amount.
Overall, with the Sushi and ethnic food trend, the number of the chopsticks production is increasing as well as the number of the wasted chopsticks.
ChopValue upcycled over 1.5 million chopsticks since its launch in 2016, but the disposal continues to this day.
This is the CEO and founder of ChopValue, Felix Böck. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in structural bamboo products. When he was studying wood engineering, he sought for an innovative approach to recycle disposed wood. The conclusion that he reached was: to start up a sustainable business, he needs to invent a way to make good use of something that is related to our daily lives and make a product out of it innovatively and uniquely. Once they kicked off, they grew fast. Just after 3 months since the launch of the company, they successfully outgrew their working spaces and moved to a larger facility. Since 2016, they evolved faster than a speed of light.
Now, for the people lost in the woods wondering how exactly ChopValue upcycle the old chopsticks, below is a very short answer.
First off, the story starts with the restaurants where the chopsticks are used. Wooden & bamboo chopsticks get collected in each partnered restaurants. All the collected chopsticks are then transported to a factory, sorted and prepared for upcycling.
In the factory, they are soaked in a water-based resin, dried, heated, pressed and manufactured. Through this procedure, chopsticks can become a more firm material. Pressed chopsticks are then processed into tiles. In the final process, the tiles are cut and shaped into each furnishing designs.
Above you can see the beautiful, minimalistic and sleek products. On the official online shop, you can find coasters, side tables, wall art and other designs that will integrate beautifully to the current interior of your house. In addition to their online shop, they do custom projects to redesign spaces with recycled chopsticks.
I wholeheartedly hope that they will solve our chopstick waste problem here in Japan as well! Meanwhile, what you readers can do is to refrain using disposable chopsticks and refrain from supporting the restaurants with them.
Your little steps will lead to a massive global impact and surely will make a change someday. Say NO to disposable chopsticks!