Vancouver company Parkland makes bags from plastic bottles

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      By the time you’ve finished reading this article, around one million water bottles will have been purchased around the world. Only one in five of those will be recycled.

      Bottled water is only one of the major culprits of plastic dumping. Some industries create more waste than others, and one of the worst is fashion. Fabrics are dumped at the rate of 10 cubic meters every second, and a vast proportion of it is burned. Any material that isn’t set on fire contributes to the proliferation of half a million tonnes of microfiber pollution in the ocean—the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.

      For Vancouver bags and accessories company Parkland Design & Manufacturing, those statistics were unacceptable.

      Established in 2015, Parkland didn’t start out with sustainability at the top of its agenda. First focusing on designing its simple, stylish pieces with newly created materials, the company made a range of items that caught the eye of gen Z and millennials. As the business grew, its leaders started digging into how they could refine the manufacturing process and reduce their impact on the environment. The result led to a huge shift across the company.

      Since 2018, Parkland has made the exterior of its products entirely out of recycled water bottles. Like many bags, the chief material in its creations is polyester: a fabric traditionally produced using an energy-intensive chemical reaction involving coal, petroleum, air, and water. By choosing recycled materials as its base, Parkland uses far less energy in its manufacturing, and it doesn't compromise on quality or style.

      “With the recycled materials—we didn’t start there,” Daryl Trinidad, Parkland’s marketing manager, tells the Georgia Straight at the company’s pop-up shop on Granville Island. “A lot of brands start with that message. We think it’s an important story that we’re making the change. Why? Because you have to do it. It’s 2019, and companies have to change…Even Adidas has made the commitment to use recycled plastics in all their products by 2024…I don’t want to say that we’re in any way leading it, but we want to do better, and we want to help others do more of the right thing.”

      Repurposing plastic bottles isn’t the only way that Parkland is helping create a more sustainable fashion industry. Many of the company’s signature backpacks feature the classic diamond detail, typically used for hanging excess gear by cords. While previously it cut the shape from leather, Parkland now makes the patch from apples. A unique manufacturing process combines fruit waste—a by-product from juice extraction—with a glue paste to create an animal-friendly material with the appearance and feel of genuine leather, making its bags certifiably vegan.

      “We’re continuing to try and make everything recycled,” says Trinidad. “The zippers—they can be [made of recycled material], but we’re not there yet. We’re really working to figure that out, and how we can continue our product development to be able to do that.”

      Among its designs, Parkland’s range of bags includes backpacks, duffles, and totes, each sporting a broad selection of designs from colourful prints to timeless, neutral options. Each comes in a variety of sizes for occasions from school to the beach, and Parkland also offers a standalone collection for kids. In addition to conventional backpacks, the company also offers coolbag-style lunchboxes and plastic-free snack pouches, pencil cases, laptop sleeves, and crossbody bags.

      “Our prints are really what sets us apart,” says Trinidad. “Carson [Gallagher], who’s our graphic designer, does the prints so well. We really resonate well with the kids market, and the millennial moms buying for their kids. And then we have the 15, 16-year-olds. Kids are taught about sustainability now—they have a different kind of education. You’ll have 17-year-olds who are amazed when someone is throwing something in the garbage rather than recycling it.”

      Now showcasing its latest collection named New Colours, Parkland has scored a prime slot on Granville Island to host a pop-up store of its newest designs. As a local brand, it gives the company the opportunity to meet new customers and learn their needs, and offers the community a chance to browse and buy the colourful new creations. The store will be present until Tuesday (August 13), and opens its doors every morning at 11 a.m.  

      Check out some of Parkland's designs below:

      Kate Wilson is the Technology Editor at the Georgia Straight. Follow her on Twitter @KateWilsonSays