How this Calgary company is making a difference one chopstick at a time both home and abroad
They’re creating sustainability one chopstick at a time — and making some pretty cool products while they’re at it, too.
Born during the pandemic, ChopValue YYC collects used bamboo chopsticks from restaurants and malls to recycle them into products such as cutting boards, charcuterie platters, home decor, tables, and so much more.
But it’s the environmental impact that sticks out as the local company is focused on the global concept of keeping chopsticks out of the landfill and giving them a second life, company owner Joanne Dafoe says.
“We bring them back to our micro-factory and remanufacture cool stuff. Everything from coasters and crib boards, right up to countertops and feature walls,” she says, adding they are manufactured right here in Calgary.
“Basically, anything you can think of that you normally make from wood, we’re making from bamboo chopsticks. We’re giving them that second life, and we’re pretty proud of what we’re doing.”
It’s a win-win situation
It’s a concept known as urban harvesting and it’s a win-win situation for everyone, including the local restaurants, Dafoe explains, adding they work with over 110 local partners.
“The restaurants see the benefit for them as well. They think they’re doing a really cool thing, so usually, all of them buy into the concept, but also it saves them on their garbage disposal fees,” she says.
“Chopsticks tend to break holes in the bag. So when a restaurant has stuff in their garbage that is a little bit wet or leaking, the chopsticks don’t help with that. We like to think that we’re getting this raw material, but we’re also doing the restaurants a service as well.”
The environmental impact is no small feat, either
Dafoe says the company sprouted in December 2020 and has grown from there. Its head office resides in Vancouver, and while Calgary was its first franchise, she says the concept is growing all over the world.
There are three other locations in Canada already and soon it will be expanding into Las Vegas, Boston, and more in the UK and Mexico — and just this week they announced a Bali location.
“We’re trying to take this global concept and make it a prosperous business in every major city in the world so that we’re also lessening our carbon footprint,” Dafoe adds.
Their vision is to redefine the term waste to resource
The impact is big — they’ve already recycled and transformed over 56 million chopsticks, which has stored over 76 million kilograms of carbon.
Globally, over 1.5 billion chopsticks are consumed annually. Here in Calgary, ChopValue YYC aims to divert 500 kilograms of chopsticks each week, which works out to 130,000 chopsticks every seven days.
“That’s what would be going into our landfills if we weren’t around, so it feels like we are making a difference. That’s how simple it can be. A green business can also be a prosperous business,” she says.
“Although it has been within a pandemic, we seem to be thriving and prospering. And we’re doing it without cutting down a 50-year-old oak tree.”
How you can help
There is a 24-hour collection bin set up outside of ChopValue YYC’s shop located at 3619 Blackburn Rd. SE for businesses to leave their used bamboo chopsticks.
“We’re always looking for ways we can get chopsticks from people’s kitchen drawers to our shop,” Dafoe adds.
They also give those interested a tour of the shop to show how they transform these used bamboo utensils into useful products.
“People come every day. That’s the biggest thing — finding enough chopsticks. We have lots of sales, which is great,” she says. “But you have to find that fine balance and we’re always happy to get more.”