COVID-19 is bringing plenty of challenges for businesses starting up during the pandemic.
But one new Calgary company is sticking with it, and helping the environment along the way.
ChopValue YYC collects used chopsticks from restaurants and recycles them into all kinds of products.
“We do wall decor, cutting boards, charcuterie platters, crib boards, chess boards,” company founder Joanne Dafoe said.
“Everything from coasters to countertops.”
About 85 restaurants around Calgary are turning over their used chopsticks to ChopValue YYC.
“Nowadays, there are lots of global issues, like environmental problems,” Meshi Sushi & Ricebowl manager Daniel Lee said. “So we are really glad to recycle the chopsticks.”
The regular collections from restaurants mean ChopValue YYC receives more than 100,000 chopsticks each week.
“The stuff that was going to be in a landfill is now essentially being given a second life,” Dafoe said.
And since opening a year ago, the company has also given a second chance to people hit by the pandemic, like operations manager Darren Singleton, who was working as a concierge at a downtown hotel.
“Obviously that business took a hit and I was furloughed for eight months, a couple of times,” Singleton said. “And then I kind of stumbled across this. This is an awesome thing. I jumped at it and this is great.”
ChopValue YYC has now grown to include seven employees, but with COVID-19 continuing, the company is still facing problems, such as disruptions in its steady supply of chopsticks.
“It ebbs and flows,” Dafoe said. “Every time one of our (restaurant) partners is closing down or they’re just going to takeout, yeah, it’s a challenge for us, definitely throughout the lockdowns.”
ChopValue is hoping more restaurants will join in its recycling efforts.
Dafoe says the company is always looking into new possibilities for products – “We are making a difference, one chopstick at a time.”