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Posts Tagged ‘chopsticks’

Photo: Carlin Stiehl/Boston Globe.
The Boston Globe reports that at ChopValue, bags of used chopsticks get “sorted — and made into everything from coasters to furniture.” ChopValue is a Canadian company that franchises factories.

Do you find yourself noticing more often just how many items we use and throw out? Many of us now seek out products that are reusable. We do this on our own because anytime a law is made, companies find a way to get around it.

Our town bans plastic take-home bags and plastic bottled water. Guess what? CVS merely made a heavier plastic bag and called it reusable. Bottled-water companies added a hint of flavoring, a loophole that allows them to sell plastic bottles here. So let’s do what we can on our own for sustainability.

Diti Kohli writes at the Boston Globe, “Elaine Chow believes your chopsticks can be more than utensils. In fact, she knows they can.

“The Savin Hill resident is giving ‘a mountain of chopsticks’ a second life at a new micro-factory that was launched in Charlestown in early September. … There, Chow melds the breakable wooden staples of Asian food into something more: cellphone stands ($11), charcuterie boards ($67), and even tables ($960).

“It’s all possible through ChopValue, a Canadian company that franchises factories that create chopstick-based homewares to people like Chow. … She leads the charge locally by collecting used utensils from more than 100 Greater Boston restaurants and running the machines that turn them into their final form. Chow eventually packs and delivers online orders of cribbage boards and workstation desks — all once used to eat sushi or stir-fry — all over New England.

“The draw for her is sustainability, and the ChopValue micro-factory already reigns as one of the only entirely cyclical businesses in Eastern Massachusetts, Chow said. …

‘People are realizing more and more that we can’t just continue to consume and build up piles of trash. We can do better.’

“Here’s how it works. Four days a week, a ChopValue truck visits restaurants around the region, picking up bags of used chopsticks. That itself is a win-win: Businesses are left with less waste to dispose of, and Chow has raw materials to work with. In six months, she has amassed 2.5 million chopsticks, weighing 15,000 pounds, and that number keeps growing.

“Back at the factory, Chow and three employees sort the sticks by color and separate them into mesh baskets. Then the utensils are dipped into resin and baked for 12 hours at 200 degrees, a process that allows them to harden and the resin to crystalize. Staffers then press a 3,000-pound machine on the sticks to flatten them, and what comes out on the other side is a durable tile — one of three sizes — that can be connected, sanded, and cut into the finished product.

“The process has proved to be labor-intensive, and Chow is on the hunt for two more employees, which is tough in the tight labor market. … After years of working in human relations, she has fallen in love with the factory’s green mission — and the chance to build on a love for woodworking that she picked up during the pandemic. Chow built a picnic table and shed to cover her trash bins during early COVID, before quitting her job and buying the franchise in September 2021.

“ ‘I have forever and ever been obsessive [with] recycling,’ she said. But she found ChopValue while scrolling through social media one day. ‘I actually have the computer algorithm to thank. It finally did a good thing.’ ”

More at the Globe, here.

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