Disposable chopsticks are nowadays an essential feature of our dining tables. But the wasted resources caused by their overuse is huge, how can we solve this problem?
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ChopValue is a Canadian company that collects used chopsticks and turns them into a variety of products like furniture and countertops. It has recycled more than 32m chopsticks – diverting them from landfills and creating employment for 40 people.
The startup uses heat, steam and pressure to transform the chopsticks into wooden tiles – now also being used in Calgary, Montreal and Los Angeles.
Part of the innovation is the process that transforms the lifecycle of a common utensil such as chopstick, from short and linear to unlimited and circular. This starts by recycling chopsticks from local restaurants in Vancouver. By maintaining a local radius of restaurants, ChopValue is able to minimize its carbon footprint. The recycled chopsticks are delivered to ChopValue every two weeks where they are disinfected and sorted. The Chopsticks are placed in a rolling cylinder that groups and aligns them evenly, and prepares them for the succeeding steps. The following step is to add the adhesive that will allow each chopstick to stick to one another. Each chopstick is dipped into water-based resin that will allow the product to be recycled and gives off no emission during the process. Once the chopsticks are dried, they are transferred to a hydraulic hot press where the resonated raw material is compressed into the new material. After this material is created, they are cut into standard dimensions and later customized depending on the specifications of the new product. Finally, the new products are covered with a food-safe wax that emphasizes the material’s texture.
It is a singularly innovative and scalable idea that is inspiring fresh ways for us to think about the resources we have in our urban environment.