'We give them a 2nd life': Local business turning recycled chopsticks into sustainable, useful items

BOSTON — It’s an old but well known saying: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

A new company is proving that point with discarded chopsticks.

Most diners use them for about 20 minutes and toss them in the garbage without much thought, but now Charlestown-based Chop Value is giving these slender pieces of wood a second life.

The company’s micro-factory is filled with countless bags of old chopsticks that they pick up weekly from about 100 local restaurants.

“Within six months, we accumulated almost eight tons of material diverted from the landfill and used that to make products,” said company founder Elaine Chow.

Chow left a long career in H-R to start Chop Value.

“I was really passionate about sustainability. I was feeling an increasing urgency around sustainability and the waste that we create and that way that we consume.”

Restaurants like Ka Ju Tofu in Allston collect their used chopsticks in a special bin. Once a week a representative from Chop Value picks them up and takes them away for free.

“It’s literally an afterthought,” said restaurant owner Joseph Suh. It’s painless, literally painless.”

Suh says participating in Chop Value’s program does more than keep trash out of landfills. “We’re actually saving a lot of money as well.”

The used chopsticks go thru a multistep process when they get back to the factory so they can then be turned into something useful.

Ultimately, Chop Value creates building blocks that can be cut into smaller items or put together to create larger ones. Some examples of their work include coasters, phone stands, and desks.

“We give them a second life so hopefully a chopstick that was used for 20 minutes will now be used for 10 years as a piece of furniture,” added Chow.

Chop Value is the only operation of its kind in the Boston area.

Chow says business is good so far and they plan to expand their product line.

She hopes what they do at the Charlestown facility can inspire people to really think about what they casually toss in the trash.

“If we can divert eight tons of material from landfills from just little chopsticks in six months, what else is going into the landfill that we should and could be doing something productive with?”

Diverting trash out of landfills is becoming a more critical issue here in Massachusetts.

The State Department of Environmental Protection tells Boston 25 that only six landfills are still operating across the state. Some of those are expected to reach capacity as early as 2030.

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