Upcycling chopsticks into functional pieces of art

Felix Böck wants to give used chopsticks a second life. He founded a company named ChopValue that takes used chopsticks and turns them into woodwork items such as coasters, tables and shelves. 

When Böck was six, he carved hiking sticks for tourists in the Alps. Since then, he has been closely connected to wood. He worked as an apprentice at a traditional high-end cabinet workshop in southern Germany before he pursued his wood engineering degree.

Generating a second lifecycle

What’s been used becomes new again. | Photo courtesy of Felix Böck

What’s been used becomes new again. | Photo courtesy of Felix Böck

According to his website for ChopValue, more than 2,000 restaurants are using disposable chopsticks for less than an hour. The site says that Vancouver sends over 100,000 disposable chopsticks to the landfill every day. The young start-up was started in May 2016.

“Be part of the innovative zero waste society and help generate a second life cycle,” says the website.

In 2013, Böck received a Bachelor’s of Engineering in Wood Technology & Industrial Engineering from the University of Applied Sciences in Rosenheim, Germany. He continued his studies on natural fibre composite materials for BASF SE, Ludwigshafen. Now, aside from being a partner in ChopValue, Böck is currently a doctoral student at the University of British Columbia (UBC). He is working on technologies to process “bamboo culms into strands, particles and fibres for the development of bamboo-wood hybrid elements” according to his LinkedIn profile. Böck chose to study with UBC because of a research collaboration in a project called Structural Bamboo Products with UBC, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston and the University of Cambridge in the UK.

“Knowing UBC as a campus and Vancouver as an amazing place to live from my semester abroad as an international student in 2011, it was a fairly easy choice when I was offered to join the team to eventually work on my PhD,” says Böck.

He met Katrina Prescott, who would become a partner in ChopValue, through Upcycling Vancouver, an initiative that looks for ways to repurpose wooden materials. ChopValue could help ChopSwap, a community campaign that helps turn local restaurants and their customers into zero-waste heroes.

“We quickly realized that ChopValue can help ChopSwap to finish the story of Katrina’s

campaign in which she swaps disposable chopsticks with reusable ones,” says Böck.

They keep in touch about the events ChopSwap is involved with, including local farmer’s markets and festivals, so that ChopValue can provide bins.

Böck is happy they met and that they were able to add some valuable pieces to each other’s initiatives.

Interest growing in ChopValue

Ever since he has gotten coverage from UBC, there has been mounting interest in his project. Their showcase at the Prototype Design Stage through this year’s Interior Design Show (IDS) West in Vancouver (September 22 – 25) helped Böck network for his company’s future growth, including making important contacts for potential projects and wholesalers who are interested in larger volumes for distribution.

“We are considering travelling to IDS Toronto in January and Vancouver Buildex in February. We hope to be represented as a local Vancouver business as well in next year’s Vancouver Home show,” says Böck.

ChopValue’s vision is to expand their collection program locally by the end of the year. They’re also aiming to create a franchise model for partners to implement in other major cities who also love Asian cuisine, not only for recycling, but to improve their environmental footprint.

“Doing my PhD and remaining working in the same field is still an unbelievable journey for me – I felt that an opportunity like ChopValue is something that provides me the balance of academic papers and office with hands-on, practical product development and final product application with local impact,” says Böck.

For more information, please visit www.chopvalue.ca or look up Chopvalue on www.kickstarter.com.