For an item that’s generally used for less than an hour during mealtimes, North America imports a whole lot of chopsticks: about 40 to 50 billion pairs a year. Most of these are bamboo chopsticks, typically made in China, and shipped thousands of miles across the globe.
Yet after lunch, they simply end up in the trash. But a Canadian company has just diverted its hundred-millionth discarded chopstick that would have otherwise been landfill-bound. ChopValue is instead turning these one-time utensils into furniture, from desks to cabinets to shelves. And now, it’s starting to turn them into restaurant interiors—including for McDonald’s.
Chopsticks are abundant in cities around the world; in the U.S., Asian fast-food establishments increased by 135% between 1999 and 2015. On any given day in Vancouver, where ChopValue is based, people dispose of 100,000 chopsticks.
Operating in 12 cities around the world, its collection partners include restaurant chains like Wagamama and P.F. Chang’s; schools and universities; corporate offices, including Slack; and Vancouver International Airport. ChopValue’s team collects the utensils weekly from the locations’ dedicated recycling bins. They can be made from bamboo or wood, though founder and CEO Felix Böck says 90% in North America are the former.