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Chopsticks Rescue

There's a dark side to sushi.

By Rachel Gallaher

HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED WHAT HAPPENS TO THE BAMBOO UTENSILS WE SO BLITHELY THROW AWAY AFTER DEVOURING OUR MEAL? It’s a question University of British Columbia doctoral candidate Felix Böck has thought about a lot over the past couple of years. In the course of his research at UBC’s Department of Wood Science, he’s discovered that up to 100,000 disposable chopsticks end up in Vancouver’s landfills every day—and that’s just one city’s tally. Appalled at this waste, he’s now investigating ways to give chopsticks a second life.

In spring 2016, Böck’s research group launched ChopValue, a program that provides free recycling bins to local restaurants and collects their used chopsticks on a weekly or biweekly basis. The group processes the utensils—cleaning the sticks and then bonding them together with resin into tiles under heat and pressure—which they then craft into home accessories such as trivets, coasters, and hexagonal shelving units. The winner of GRAY’s inaugural Pitch Tank program (a Shark Tank-style ideas competition) at IDS Vancouver in September 2016, ChopValue impressed our panel of judges enough to beat out five other worthy contenders—ranging from a company designing affordable prefab building units to an artists’ collective developing a compound for creative retreats. A month later, ChopValue wrapped up a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising $16,678 CAD to support the manufacture of their already popular products. We can’t wait to see what they’ll make next.

See this story in GRAY Issue no. 31


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