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[As Seen on KLAS-TV] Used chopsticks find second lives in Las Vegas

[As Seen on KLAS-TV] Used chopsticks find second lives in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A Las Vegas company is working towards a carbon-negative future, they said, turning take-out trash into delightful decor.

Las Vegas is known to many as a city of excess with endless buffets and dazzling fountains. As such, many would find it difficult to imagine a green movement growing within the city, working to recycle, upcycle, and change the mindset of some in the community. But, in a place where it’s always out with the old, it’s also true that someone’s trash can be someone else’s treasure. 

ChopValue Las Vegas became the first of the company's US locations in 2022. (KLAS)
ChopValue Las Vegas became the first of the company’s U.S. locations in 2022. (KLAS)

Those inside ChopValue Las Vegas say it’s all about signs, fixtures, feature walls, you name it.

“We make things as small as key chains and coasters all the way up to full tabletops for restaurant spaces and corporate office spaces,” said Nico Fenske, the general manager of ChopValue. “We even have at-home desks you can make.”

Nico Fenske, the general manager of ChopValue, says he is a "generational woodworker," now using former chopsticks to fuel his creations. (KLAS)
Nico Fenske, the general manager of ChopValue, says he is a “generational woodworker,” now using former chopsticks to fuel his creations. (KLAS)

If you can dream it, Fenske said the micro-factory can produce it; after all, woodworking runs in his family. Calling himself a “generational woodworker,” Fenske said, it’s not just any wood used to fuel ChopValue’s creations. It’s bamboo. 

“This is chopsticks, you know,” Fenske said. “We’re using recycled chopsticks.”

Soy sauce, chili paste, mustard, and all: many of the creations were formerly dirty chopsticks. Turning trash into treasure, Fenske said ChopValue keeps the waste out of dumpsters and landfills. 

“I think it’s about 10 million chopsticks that we collected last year,” said Brooks Smith, president of ChopValue Las Vegas, which became the first of the company’s locations in the US in 2022. 


The President of ChopValue Las Vegas says the company collected 10 million

“The whole idea came about during COVID,” Smith said. “I saw this business, and I was eating a lot of Chinese food at the time; I was using chopsticks — just looking at my chopsticks, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is wood. I can do anything with this — make anything out of this.'”

They collect used chopsticks from more than six dozen Las Vegas restaurants and bring them to the warehouse. The chopsticks are then sorted before going into a bin for a resin bath.

“It coats the chopsticks in the resin,” said Smith. “That’s our binding agent — it’s what sticks them all together.”

Then, the chopsticks are cooked at more than 200 degrees. 

“We bake our chopsticks for 10 to 12 hours,” Smith explained, showing off a cookie-sheet-shaped conglomeration of processed chopsticks. After that, they’re weighed and placed into a press, resulting in blocks that consist of 300 to 600 chopsticks. From there, the former eating utensils can become nearly anything imaginable.

The result of a 10 to 12 hour journey is a cookie-sheet-shaped conglomeration of processed chopsticks. (KLAS)
The result of a 10 to 12-hour journey is a cookie-sheet-shaped conglomeration of processed chopsticks. (KLAS)

ChopValue’s experts say there is no shortage of chopsticks in Las Vegas. Fenske said the company has collected approximately 140 million chopsticks.

Since ChopValue’s launch, two micro-factories have launched, working to distribute locally. Available at ChopValue’s online store, a full restaurant tabletop order takes approximately three weeks to process, while custom projects are quicker.

 

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