Upcycling takes many different forms. Whether it's transforming brewer's spent grain into flavorful snack puffs or plastic into bags, both ReGrained and Got Bag share a mission of turning waste into things we can use and love. Bonded by our similar business model, we asked our friends at Got Bag to learn more about their upcycling process!
"What is Got Bag, and what inspired you to start the business?"
"Our planet is drowning in plastic pollution. 91% of the worldwide plastic waste is not being recycled and a staggering 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. That’s about 17.6 billion pounds — or the equivalent of nearly 57,000 blue whales — every single year! GOT BAG is an eco-friendly, fashion-forward backpack & lifestyle accessories brand, dedicated to raising awareness and cleaning our oceans from plastic pollution. Following his passion for water sports, GOT BAG founder Benny decided to clean up the ocean by manufacturing backpacks with recycled plastic waste from the Western Pacific. With the iconic GOT BAG ROLLTOP the world’s first backpack made of ocean plastic was developed.
What started as a passion project is now a successful and rapidly growing business. For every travel companion sold, a step forward is made to sensitize people to a more environmentally conscious approach to plastic. All of GOT BAG‘s actions are dedicated to raising awareness and preventing plastic waste from ever getting back into the ocean. In 2020, GOT BAG began to expand its US business. Based in Portland, OR, Matthias (Head of North America) is bringing the brand’s holistic and sustainable approach to US customers."
"How is ocean plastic defined? How does Got Bag harvest ocean plastic and turn it into something useful? If other brands want to use this upcycled plastic as an input for their products, are there commercially available supplies?"
"Other than ocean-bound plastic, which is plastic that has not yet found its way into the ocean and is classified as “mismanaged waste” and is found on the ground within 30 miles of a waterway or coastal area, ocean plastic is plastic that actually made it into the ocean and is therefore harder to collect and recover. Ocean plastic is the plastic that threatens marine life every day. In order to create a real impact and a truly sustainable product, it was important for GOT BAG to have full control over every single step of the production chain - starting where the problem is the biggest. GOT BAG’s very own network of 1,500 fishermen collects ocean plastic as by-catch, which is then carefully separated and cleaned before processed. For each products, GOT BAG recovers up to 9 lb of ocean plastic.
The PET share of the recycled plastic is fed into GOT BAG’s production chain, while all other unusable parts are discarded according to the right recycling chain. The raw material “ocean plastic” turns step by step into a high-quality yarn. Each production step conserves resources and follows the highest requirements for fair and social work conditions, including job safety and certifications. There are commercially available recycled plastic supplies and a lot of brands use those instead of recycling their own plastic. Major recycled plastic suppliers are Oceanworks, Plastic Bank and Honest Ocean."
"Can you touch on any additional valuable properties of the upcycled material beyond its positive environmental impact? How does the material differ from the traditionally used inputs?"
"By using recycled PET to produce yarn, GOT BAG has made the commitment to utilize a new eco-friendly alternative to conventional plastic. One metric ton of recycled PET saves 3.8 barrels of oil, 3,750 lb of water, and reduces the CO2 emission by 306,000 lb compared to the industry standard. So far, more than 100 tons of ocean plastic have been recycled to create GOT BAG products. Additionally, GOT BAG’s fabric is water-repellent thanks to an innovative BIO-PU coating, which uses significantly less water and oil during production, while also emitting less CO2 than traditional coating processes. The coating is 100% biodegradable and all products are free from PFC."
"What is your big picture mission?"
"GOT BAG’s ultimate goal is dedicated to raising awareness and cleaning our oceans from plastic pollution. We want to be part of the solution instead of the problem and we are convinced that sustainable business with an impact is possible! The cause of the problem itself needs to be approached. That is why we organize training sessions on waste separation for the local community on Java. In general, we think that the cause of the problem and possible solutions should be even more transparent for everyone so that people know how they can help and raise awareness.
There is more to do than just limiting the damage. Rather it is about finding solutions in those countries who suffer most under those conditions so that the problem no longer occurs. This can either happen through educational work or even through a creation of waste management systems that cannot be invented by those countries alone. Therefore, the situation in countries who have a serious waste problem needs to be shown and possible solutions and ways how to react have to be published so that everyone can make a contribution and also knows for what his/her donation is used."
"What applications beyond bags do you Do you see this approach crossing over into other applications beyond bags?"
"We offer bags, backpacks, travel & urban lifestyle essentials like Passport Covers, Wallets, Laptop Sleeves, Showerbags, etc. All made from recycled ocean plastic. I think the possibilities are limitless."