VANCOUVER, British Columbia – As of December 2020, ChopValue, a company that converts recycled chopsticks into home décor, says it has diverted 32,167,240 chopsticks from landfills. That’s more than double the number of chopsticks the company claimed it had salvaged as of May 2019.
ChopValue is a company started by Felix Böck in 2016 while still a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia’s Forestry Department. In a 2020 ChopValue video, Böck introduces himself as “just a garbage man with a PhD, at least, that’s what my mom says.”
Over the course of the last four years, ChopValue has evolved into a franchise-based business. Böck offers potential franchisees to set up a ChopValue turnkey microfactory to exclusively service an area. The basic premise of the franchise concept is working with local Asian restaurants to collect used chopsticks – mostly bamboo -- as the raw material. The chopsticks are then processed at the approximately 2,000-square-foot microfactory: cleaned, coated with a non-toxic resin, and hot-pressed and sawn into square tiles. Those tiles, each made from hundreds of chopsticks, can then be assembled into a variety of home décor products including coasters, shelving and table tops.
ChopValue refers to its microfactory approach as “decentralized manufacturing,” where in goods and products are manufactured closer to the required raw materials. “Decentralized manufacturing has several advantages regarding market and product flexibility. Smaller factories can react more spontaneously to changes in market needs, and additional products can be quickly sourced from other locations, when necessary.” In addition, ChopValue notes that its decentralized manufacturing approach greatly reduces the “environmental impact” of transportation of raw materials and finished goods to and from the microfactory.
ChopValue published its third Urban Impact Report last June. It not highlights the franchise and microfactory concepts, but also ChopValue’s commitment to environmental stewardship ranging from participation in the “circular economy” to its pledge to remain carbon neutral.
Last January, ChopValue announced that it had raised $2.65 million in Pre-Series A Funding led by franchising, branding, and impact funds as well as a select group of high-profile angel investors.
The video below from September 2016, shows the prototype manufacturing process Böck developed at the Univerisity of British Columbia’s forest product lab to convert chopsticks into tiles.
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