Sustainable fashionWaste recycling

How to make a backpack with plastic bottles

Lefrik’s bags are made of eco-friendly fabrics derived from recycled PET bottles

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Have you ever wondered what recycled plastic is used for? The Spanish brand Lefrik is making the most out of bottles that are thrown away: it converts them into cool, practical bags and backpacks. 14 discarded plastic bottles can become a new Lefrik backpack, and even more bottles can be re-purposed, depending on the model. And what is more, every aspect of the production and the delivery is carefully designed, so to meet high sustainability standards.

PET disposal and re-purposing

Capsule backpack. Courtesy of Lefrik.
Capsule backpack. Courtesy of Lefrik.

We all know we use too much disposable plastic and that it is not recycled enough. 2018’s Earth Day was dedicated to efforts to tackle plastic pollution and at least since then we are all much more aware of the issue. On the other hand, the textile industry largely depends on non-renewable resources and producing plastic-based fibers for textiles alone ‘uses an estimated 342 million barrels of oil every year’ according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s report on circular economy and fashion. What do these two problems have in common? Can some of the plastic we throw away as waste become valuable raw material for the textiles (and the fashion) industry?

Let us start with plastic bottles, which are made of PET (Polyethylene terephthalate), one of the most omnipresent polymers of our era. They are a particularly ephemeral product, usually intended for single-use, but, paradoxically, they are also very resilient. They take more than 450 years to decompose when left by themselves in landfills, polluting land and water in the process. And this happens quite frequently, as, according to EPA, in 2017 in the United States only 8.4% of plastics (of all kinds, including PET) were recycled and 15.80% were burned to generate electricity, while almost 76% were discarded in landfills, which amounts to 13.8 millions of tonnes.

So finding out ways to re-purpose PET is crucial at the current stage. And you may be surprised to know that, in the context of the textiles industry, PET is normally referred to as ‘polyester’. Yes, the same fabric some of your clothes are made of.

To create polyester, bottles need to be sorted and washed to remove impurities (as paper labels), and just after that, they are ground up into flakes, that are dried and melted to form pellets. The pellets are then heated and passed through a spinneret to form strings of yarn, which are winded up in spools and passed through a crimping machine to create a fluffy texture. And this is the final yarn that gets knitted into polyester fabric. Clever, isn’t it?

From plastic bottles to backpacks, the full process followed by Lefrik. Courtesy of Lefrik.
From plastic bottles to backpacks, the full process followed by Lefrik. Courtesy of Lefrik.

Lefrik is following this exact process to produce the two polyester variants that it employs in all its bags. They claim that focusing on only these two fabrics allows them to reduce their carbon footprint and to increase their production efficiency. Moreover, the Spanish company points out that the fabric they use “is dyed under the OEKO TEX 100 standard which guarantees that the article has no toxic chemical substances. Also, the fabric gets a TPE backing to ensure it is waterproof and durable”. So far so good, but how does Lefrik manage the rest of the processes, from manufacturing to delivery?

A fully ethical and sustainable business

Lefrik polyester is produced in China, as it is there that the company found the most skilled experts in recycling processes and manufacturers. In TIANYOU they are manufacturing the backpacks, taking charge of sourcing Lefrik’s RPET fabrics, keeping in touch with the rest of the suppliers and supervising the whole recycling process. Their goals are people-centric, as they claim to aim at offering a better platform to their employees’ (or partners’, as they call them) families, as well as supplying more working opportunities to the village people. In TANGCHAO they have been producing eco-friendly fabrics for 10 years instead, and they are true innovators in sustainability, so their objective is to protect the global environment by reducing the earth’s resources consumption.

Packaging used for deliveries. Courtesy of Lefrik.
Packaging used for deliveries. Courtesy of Lefrik.

Lefrik ensures ethical practices in its suppliers by, among other things, having developed an internal code of conduct and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) plan and systematically checking past audits. Moreover, Lefrik works to develop strong long-term working relationships with its suppliers, visiting the factories and conducting inspections with a health and safety checklist. The Spanish company is strongly committed to the prevention of pollution in the whole chain, as well as to the guardianship of employees’ rights and health, including the refusal of the use of child labor.

As for packaging and delivery, all Lefrik’s online orders are guaranteed not to use any plastic at all. Items are dispatched in cardboard boxes sealed with paper stripe, and no extra wrapping is used in the backpacks, just a postcard made with recycled paper. In Spain, orders are delivered by Koiki either walking, biking or in electric vehicles. What is more, Koiki’s service network has an especially good social impact, as it creates job opportunities for people in vulnerable situations.

Could we ask for more to a brand? Well, there is more actually. Lefrik has been approved as vegan by the animal welfare organization PETA and it is a member of the Common Objective platform by the Ethical Fashion Forum.

How to support

  • If you want to support Lefrik, just choose their backpacks the next time you’ll need to purchase one. They are not only sustainable but also resistant and beautifully designed. Purchase them online or visit one of their physical stores. Please note that, although the Madrid retail shop is currently closed due to the covid-19 spread, the online shop is still running
  • Lefrik also offers a cobranding service with special prices if you are an enterprise looking for Lefrik items to reward clients, employees or for an event
  • You can follow Lefrik on
  • You can support Lefrik even by simply sharing this article on your favorite social networks. Spread the word!

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