Turning Chopsticks Into Furniture

Saving trees one chopstick at a time.

Sep 29, 2023


Turning Chopsticks Into Furniture | Saving trees one chopstick at a time.

If you are a sushi or Chinese food connoisseur, you are probably familiar with the neat little chopstick package that accompanies your meal. But, did you ever think about the life cycle of the chopstick? What happens to these little wooden sticks when we are done with the meal? 

Not all used chopsticks end up in the trash and landfills. Some are given a new lease on life as luxury furniture and tidy coasters. Chop Value is a company dedicated to rescuing and recycling chopsticks and aims to change the meaning of the term waste to resource, one chopstick at a time.

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Meet the founder
Chop Value is the brainchild of Felix Bock, an engineer who’s mother describes him as a garbage man with a PhD,” according to the Woodworking Network. The company was founded in 2016.

Bock explained in an interview with Forbes about how he became inspired to start rescuing chopsticks. A decade ago, Bock had started a PhD program in structural bamboo composites. As a sushi lover, Bock spent his days learning about bamboo and his evenings trying out the local sushi restaurants in Vancouver.

One evening over dinner, he made the connection between the bamboo chopsticks in his hand, and his long standing desire to upcycle wasted wood. “I had been trying to implement a regional program to tackle urban wood waste, but it fell on deaf ears,” Bock told Forbes. “So, I thought the humble little chopstick was a more relatable resource to show how you can build viable business opportunities from resource efficiency.” 

Franchising environmentalism
The company produces dozens of products, including coasters, wall paneling, tables, entrance flooring, and wall decor, using only the humble, little chopstick, according to Woodworking Network.

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Bock told Woodworking Network, “We urban harvest used chopsticks. Our resource is what others may view as waste - that means we don’t take virgin materials from our environment. Every chopstick is perfect, slender, and defect-free, making them ideal to develop an innovative engineered material.”

Chop Value operates with franchises. There are about a dozen franchises in Canada, Singapore, and the United States. In 2021, entrepreneur Elaine Chow opened a second US franchise, in Boston, according to Caught in Dot

“I didn’t set out to just make furniture, I set out to make people think bigger and better about what we could do with their waste,” Chow told Caught in Dot. “We are excited to provide customers with a truly green product.”

A custom-made hydraulic process
According to the company, the salvaged chopsticks are first placed on a custom shake-table that organizes the chopsticks into neat stacks. The stacks are lowered into a water and resin mixture to give them a protective coating. 

Next, the coated chopsticks are baked at high heat to disinfect them. The chopstick stacks are hammered back into separate sticks and weighed. That’s when the transformation process begins.

Chop Value’s engineering team has invented a custom hydraulic press. Under high pressure, the chopsticks are transformed from disparate sticks into a smooth, wooden composite material. After that, all that’s left is to cut, sand, and build the chopstick wood into whatever its final form will be.

Chop Value rescued more than 100 million chopsticks from a landfill fate, according to  Woodworking News. That’s a pretty major accomplishment for a garbage man with a PhD.

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Adina is a writer who believes in the transformative power of words. She understands that everyone has a valuable story to tell. Adina’s goal is to learn new things every day and share her discoveries with others.