Launched in 2016, ChopValue is a Vancouver start-up that harnesses the principles of the circular economy to harvest and recycle disposable bamboo chopsticks, and transform them into value-added design products. To date, the company has collected and remanufactured over 15 million chopsticks into coasters, platters, shelves and tables. With a corporate mindset guided by circularity and longevity, ChopValue is reshaping the lifecycle of so-called disposable resources and leading the charge towards a new understanding of single-use and sustainability.
Founder and CEO Felix Böck, who has a Ph.D. in Structural Bamboo Products, was initially focused on tackling the 600,000 tonnes of waste generated per year by the construction and wood industry in Vancouver (Canada). However, as his proposals struggled to gain traction with industry leaders, he recognized that in order for sustainable business concepts to flourish, they need to be relatable and tangible. It was over a sushi dinner with his partner when he realized that the humble chopstick offered the perfect opportunity. He began focusing on a new proposal, which would aim to recycle used chopsticks, demonstrating a viable business model while harnessing a neglected resource. Fast forward four years, and ChopValue now has collection programmes in Vancouver, Victoria, Montreal and Los Angeles, collecting over 1.1 million chopsticks a month.
While the traditional, linear economy would have most restaurant bamboo chopsticks entering the waste stream post-meal, the circular economy framework employed by ChopValue allows them to become a practical resource. This process, known as “urban harvesting” transforms the traditional “take-make-dispose” resource model to allow for the remanufacturing and reuse of waste.
Charcuterie Platter and Coasters
ChopValue adheres to clean, minimal and timeless design principles in order to ensure their products lead a durable second life and can be adopted into a variety of personal taste and styles. It all starts with 8×8 tiles. The design process is modular and these oversized Lego-like blocks are assembled to create home décor and serveware pieces.
These tiles ensure the manufacturing utilizes only the necessary materials, and the few offcuts are transformed into unique zero waste tables and key chains. While the ChopValue product range continues to expand, the first product they launched, a 9-piece wall décor set, remains their most popular to date.
With the goal of global expansion, ChopValue has had to develop new strategies to ensure that sustainability and circular practices remain at the forefront of their business activities. In Spring 2020, the company launched their MicroFactory Franchise concept, which means that raw materials are obtained locally, processed locally and distributed to local consumers. This novel framework is guided by their distributed approach to manufacturing and no matter where suppliers and customers exist, ChopValue is able to empower local communities, meet consumer demand and remain carbon-negative.
It is the strong community of ChopValue collection partners, suppliers and customers that can be leveraged to educate and raise awareness about the importance of the circular economy. And while they will continue to lead by example, ChopValue is actively encouraging consumers to support transparent companies that shape their corporate goals and business practices around environmental stewardship and social responsibility. Only with active participation on the corporate and consumer side can economic circularity become the norm.