The humble chopstick is being transformed into functional home decor thanks to the innovation of one sushi-loving UBC student.
Felix Böck, a PhD student at UBC’s forestry department, has been collecting used chopsticks from restaurants in the Metro Vancouver area and turning them into sleek cutting boards, coasters, and tabletops.
It turns out used chopsticks make for some pretty nice home decor, and Böck has now launched his own chopstick recycling startup called ChopValue.
“A kitchen drawer full of disposable chopsticks from all (of my) sushi takeout got me thinking that ‘we can do better,'” Böck told Daily Hive.
“My background in research and development of new wood-based and high-performance bamboo products got me the inspiration of seeing chopsticks in Vancouver as an urban resource for new materials.”
Böck set out and approached different restaurants around Vancouver to ask if they wanted to participate in his chopstick recycling program, and many liked the idea.
“Pilot neighbourhoods are Kitsilano, Kerrisdale, Dunbar, Point Grey and UBC with approximately 15 representative restaurants in all scales, from small family owned kitchens to larger all-you-can-eat places that provide us with sufficient confidence to expand our program and efforts of this program all over Metro Vancouver,” he said.
But what really fuels ChopValue is what Böck creates with the chopsticks. After collecting the used wooden utensils, Böck brings them back to his manufacturing space where he cleans and sanitizes them. The chopsticks then go through a brushing and screening process, get re-stained, and hot pressed into square tiles of different thicknesses.
From there, the square tiles are used to create modern and beautifully designed home decor and utensils. The number of chopsticks needed to create these items varies. Bock says about 1800 are needed to make one coffee tabletop.
But he does not need to worry about supply since chopsticks are thrown away at such a high volume. And with all the success ChopValue has seen in such a short period of time, Böck is looking to expand his chopstick creations.
“The interest in ChopValue has been growing steadily, especially after
we had the honour of getting some coverage through UBC,” said Böck.
“But also our showcase at the Prototype Design Stage during this year’s Interior Design Show in Vancouver helped a lot in receiving positive (feedback) and
making important contacts for potential projects and wholesalers who are
interested in larger volumes for distribution.”
With ChopValue looking to grow, they have created a KickStarter campaign with a goal of raising $15,000 in the next two weeks.
Currently, Böck works with a very small team, the extra funding will be extremely helpful for the young entrepreneurs looking to change they way people think about sustainability and design.
The crowdfunding campaign enables individuals who make a pledge on ChopValue’s products to receive a discounted price. Municipalities, local businesses, and every person who donates the costs of expanding their collection program can also “adopt” neighbourhoods that they would like ChopValue to be involved in – with a reward of getting their name on the bins.