SMĪLE, the First Modular Shelving System Made From Recycled Chopsticks is Live on Kickstarter!
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Most chopsticks come from bamboo harvested in China. To make disposable chopsticks, the bamboo is harvested, treated, dried and shaped into chopsticks. These chopsticks then get shipped around 9,000 kilometers to North America, to be used in just one meal. Once used, these chopsticks are normally thrown away without a second thought.
Our raw material is a composite material made by pressing these discarded chopsticks together under high pressure along with a water-based resin, giving a natural and under-utilized resource a new life.Bamboo chopsticks share many of the high-performing traits of virgin bamboo, while our method for manufacturing each tile ensures that our final products are durable and long-lasting.
Bamboo is also one of the fastest-growing wood grasses, making the resource a very sustainable wood material.
To keep your table in the best condition, please place it in the most consistent room temperature environment as possible to avoid the rapid movement of your engineered wood-bamboo surface.
Serving Boards and Coasters
These items are not dishwasher, oven, or microwave safe. To clean, use a lightly damp cloth to wipe the surface or hand wash. Dry by placing the product vertically to ensure uniform drying on all sides. Do not soak in water.
Apply a coating of food-safe mineral oil to the surface once every 3-4 weeks, or as needed, to prevent the bamboo from drying out. Apply the oil in the direction of the grain using a clean, dry cloth.
To remove odors, rub the product with salt and half of a lemon. Leave it on for 3 minutes, then wipe clean with a damp cloth. Use a dry towel to remove the extra moisture.
Store in a dry area away from extreme changes in temperature and humidity.
Spilled water should be wiped immediately. Always use coasters (extra brownie points for using ChopValue ones) when placing drinks on the table to protect the surface from rings, stains, and swelling.
To clean, use a lightly damp cloth to wipe the surface. Never use cleaning products - some of the chemicals might get ugly for your natural finish. Got some stubborn stains? Add a few drops of lemon juice to lukewarm water and wipe the area with a soft cloth.
Apply a coating of linseed seed or mineral oil to the surface once a year, or as needed, to prevent it from drying out. Rub the oil in the direction of the grain using a clean, dry cloth. Leave it on for 3 minutes, then wipe clean with a damp cloth. Use a dry towel to remove the extra moisture.
When the resin-coated chopsticks are subjected to high temperature and heat from the production process, the resin undergoes a chemical reaction that strengthens the tiles and activates the strong binding properties.
The resin is a water-based acrylic resin, free of urea and formaldehyde. It’s a non-toxic and environmentally-friendly alternative to the current resins used in the industry, allowing us to manufacture VOC-free products.
A question we get a lot is: are there enough chopsticks in the city? The short answer - YES.
We collect over 350,000 chopsticks a week from our restaurant partners in Metro Vancouver alone, diverting them from the landfill. In return, their waste disposal costs are reduced while supporting an environmentally friendly cause. Is this what people call two birds with one… chopstick?
When we align the chopsticks through our shaker table, anything that doesn’t belong is removed by hand. After that, the next step is to press them into tiles, which are the working base of all our products. We coat the chopsticks in a water-based resin, and then they are transferred into an oven for drying and then into our hydraulic press, both of which are at high temperatures.
We don’t use water or any type of chemicals in the process because our chopsticks are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected during production.
Imagine tons of pressure and high heat applied on the material over a six-hour period - that sterilizes and removes any trails of contamination or bacteria in our newly formed tiles!
In North America, over 90% of disposable chopsticks are made out of bamboo, with the remaining percentage being wooden. Both types are pressed at this facility, regardless of its size or shape.
However, bamboo is preferred because it grows much faster than wood, meaning bamboo forests can be replenished more quickly than wood-based forests, thus making it more sustainable to use bamboo chopsticks. Another fun fact about bamboo is that they can be grown on land that traditional agriculture can’t use, such as on slopes and infertile soil. It’s a self-generating plant that is less-resource intense to grow.
We actually did several life cycle assessments of different materials in the effort of replacing plastic bags during our collection program, but unfortunately the obvious choice - cotton bags - isn’t an obvious choice after all. We would need to use them in our program for 34 months to offset the energy that was used to produce them to make them equal the footprint of the plastic bags we have in current use. In reality, when we tested the implementation of cotton bags, the bags became dirty, had to be washed, and in the end, became unsustainable to use within 3 months. This doesn’t even reflect the cost perspective yet. So unfortunately, to date, plastic bags are our convenient option in our collection program but a challenge we actively work on.
All products are made in our Microfactories, with locations currently in Vancouver and Montreal, with more locations opening later this year.
We developed our turnkey Microfactory concept for a global scale and launched our franchise concept in early 2020. The goal is to have a local Microfactory that will serve customers, wherever they are in the world, for a more efficient process while being a carbon-negative company.
We’re proud to say that we generate very little waste - for example, the resin is recycled until it has been fully utilized. The manufacturing scraps are saved and used in other smaller products such as keychains and our Zero Waste table.
From an Emissions perspective:
Composting generally will emit the embodied carbon content of the chopsticks back into the air as CO2. Given that bamboo is a fast-growing grass, it is actually one of the best materials to use for carbon sequestration. But to continue sequestering the carbon, we need to extend its life as long as possible.
From a Circular Economy perspective:
Composting would still be the last resort of circular solutions. In general, recovery of energy or nutrients is the last cascade in the circular cycle. On the other hand we are taking the material to the highest and best cascade, where we increase the value of the material exponentially. Using recycled materials is just as good as creating products out of virgin materials, but with a better result for the environment.