If you’re looking for a practical example of the circular economy in action, you need look no further than Vancouver-based ChopValue.
Having achieved commercial success and “carbon negative” status, ChopValue is now boldly expanding across North America. Read on to find out how.
Leading Circular Innovation, One Chopstick at a Time
The Zero Waste Conference is pleased to welcome ChopValue founder Felix Böck to the Circular Economy Innovators & Entrepreneurs session.
ChopValue turns an everyday waste material – the humble bamboo chopstick – into chic décor and furniture products. Since 2016, ChopValue has gives used chopsticks new life by transforming them into an engineered material that can be used to build everything from desks to cutting boards to shelves to phone stands.
Thanks to the popularity of Asian cuisine, there are plenty of chopsticks to go around. In Metro Vancouver alone, an estimated 50,000 pairs get used every day.
How to Expand a Circular Economy Business?
Having established an efficient, profitable and carbon-negative production facility in Vancouver in 2018 ChopValue looked to expand into cities like Victoria, Montreal and Los Angeles.
But one of the biggest challenges for any business is scale. Sure, your operating model may work at the local level, but how are you going to stay true to your values as you scale up?
Centralized vs. Distributed Manufacturing
The most common approach to production is to bring raw materials to a central factory where manufacturing takes place, since this allows for consistency and economies of scale. However, when ChopValue considered their Victoria B.C. expansion, they realized that transporting chopsticks from Victoria to Vancouver would result in unacceptably high greenhouse gas emissions.
So they took on a novel approach: instead of one central factory, they would build “micro-factories” in different markets.
Under this “distributed manufacturing” model, each ChopValue micro-factory sources its raw materials locally, process them locally, and distribute products to local customers. Although each location operates under the ChopValue brand, each micro-factory can adapt to their local context and benefit from local partnerships and simpler logistics.
As Felix Böck recently told Forbes:
“To date we’ve recycled close to 30 million chopsticks from restaurants, businesses and malls that otherwise would have ended up in the landfill …
As local manufacturing and the de-globalization of supply chains has been brought back to the forefront throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we see this concept thriving and operating anywhere local manufacturers understand the potential of their own urban under-utilized resources.”
Ambitious Expansion Plans
By 2022, ChopValue aims to establish up to 100 micro-factories around the world in cities like Sao Paulo, Mexico City and Toronto, allowing for local production and distribution that will recover valuable resources, reduce emissions and meet customer demand for high performance wood products.
We are pleased to welcome ChopValue founder Felix Böck to this year’s Zero Waste Conference.
2020 Zero Waste Conference:
Resiliency, Prosperity, Carbon Neutrality – The Circular Economy Solution
November 13, 2020