A second life: Upcycling disposable chopsticks into ready-to-use panels

The premise behind the design of disposable wooden chopsticks is also causing wastefulness: Once used, throw it away. But in the resourceful hands of ChopValue SG, discarded chopsticks take on a second lease of life as panels for various applications – from serve ware and home office setups to decorative pieces.

By Yap Shi Quan

Tables made with upcycled chopsticks (Image: ChopValue SG)

Disposable chopsticks are the product resulting from the fast-paced social life; it is convenient and even considered “hygienic” as they are discarded after use. Traditionally made from wood, disposable chopsticks are now mostly made from bamboo instead as it is more economical and environmentally friendly. And with sustainability awareness on the rise, more innovations are being placed to give these disposable items a second life, one of which is from ChopValue, a company that upcycles used disposable chopsticks into panels that can be used for a range of purposes.

ChopValue is a circular economy furniture and design company headquartered in Vancouver, Canada. Since its founding in 2016, the company has recycled over 33 million chopsticks. In April last year, ChopValue announced the opening of its first international franchise in Singapore which will serve as the flagship and training facility for its regional expansion. Spearheaded by Evelyn Hew, managing director at ChopValue SG, the Singapore office has outlined its aim to transform 35 million chopsticks within the first three years in business – that is equivalent to 100 tonnes of urban resources that would otherwise be discarded.

She told Wood in Architecture: “In Singapore, we throw out at least 500,000 chopsticks every single day. We see that as a potential to divert them away from our waste stream, which could have landed in our incineration plant.

“We also see bamboo as a renewable resource. Typically, bamboo has a denser composition than softwoods and is, therefore, more resistant to environmental changes and scratch-resistant, both of which make utilising bamboo advantageous compared to wood-based products. Our conversion of chopsticks into products extends their lifetime indefinitely, thereby extending the time that carbon dioxide remains stored as well.”

Although disposable chopsticks do not constitute a large portion of the waste generated in Singapore each year, Hew expressed hope that ChopValue SG’s presence will inspire others to transform other urban harvests into a viable resource, and added: “We hope that with ChopValue SG’s presence, we can lead the way for an alternative view of how to handle the waste we create.”

This article first appeared in Wood in Architecture Issue 1, 2022. To read on, click here.