“The world generates 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste annually” according to the World Bank. Contributing to that gigantic number is the eighty billion pairs of disposable chopsticks used and thrown away yearly. Did you know that all of the chopsticks you used for your asian noodles, fried rice and sushi are dumped in landfills? To solve this problem, a company in Vancouver, Canada called Chopvalue is recycling disposable chopsticks into wood furniture and household items.
First of all, there are two types of chopsticks: disposable and normal chopsticks. Normal chopsticks are quality crafted from bamboo, lacquered or plain wood, or melamine plastic. After using, they can be washed and reused. Most households and asian restaurants have them. Disposable ones are also made of wood, for instance aspen, cotton, birch, nonetheless they tend to be thinner, break down easily and are designed to be discarded after the usage. These chopsticks benefit the fast food industry because of their hygienic and time-saving characteristics. Bacteria could get into the grain of wood and travel into our body if the chopsticks are not cleaned, which is a time consuming issue to deal with. In addition, customers would have to return the chopsticks for them to be reused.
Nowadays, restaurants are directing themselves more to using disposable chopsticks as utensils. They can be easily gotten rid of, therefore saving workers the energy to do the washing ups. China alone throws away on average nearly 130 million pairs of chopsticks a day. The US is also not an exception because of the rising asian population and cuisine. This situation worsens environmental pollution and deforestation, increasing the loss of biological diversity and affecting mankind’s health in general.
In Vancouver, 100 thousand chopsticks are thrown every day. Felix Böck, the founder of Chopvalue explained: “ I tried to apply my wood engineering and stereotypical “German efficiency thinking” to tackle the wood and construction waste”. His motive was to create “innovative, highly value-added, and appealing products from a relatable resource”, and this sets forth the start of Chopvalue.
The way the company works: A couple of times every week, Chopvalue driver collects up to 100-150kg of used chopsticks, which will be exported to the microfactories. These microfactories help reduce carbon footprint emitted by mass productions and exportations of larger factories. The picked up chopsticks are then sorted out by a custom machine. After stacking them up, they are dipped into a water-based resin, which protects the chopsticks when being baked for 5 hours. This step extinguishes germs and bacteria. Subsequently, the chopsticks are separated as a preparation for the next step. The chopsticks are weighed and laid out evenly in a mold, where they are pressed down into wood tiles. The hydraulic machine compresses the piles of chopsticks, to form a “new, uniform, engineered material” – as Felix Böck described. Last but not least, these blocks are sanded and designed into tables, countertops, tiles, dominos, even custom made orders.
With that being said, The company reports a whopping 40 million pairs of chopsticks recycled and more than 100 thousand kg of carbon stored to date on their website. Their action has impacted the world’s environmental pollution positively, reducing the number of municipal solid waste, especially chopsticks that are dumped in landfills and creating 100% wood quality recycled minimalistic products. Chopvalue’s worldwide collaboration and microfactory extensions has developed effectively, reaching people from the US, Europe and as far as Asia.
Until one-use utensils are cut out completely, we still have plenty of actions to take. As an individual, we should acknowledge and raise the public’s awareness about this ongrowing risk of disposable items. On the other hand, personal measures such as replacing disposable chopsticks with normal ones; reducing one’s overall usage of discardable utensils; refusing given tableware from the food industry and bringing our own can be carried out adequately. Eco-friendly companies including Chopvalue are trying their best to change global pollution. Let’s support environmentally-friendly actions and guide the world into a healthier, greener, prettier place.
Bao Anh, Ha 11a
Chopvalue website: https://chopvalue.com/en-eu