Here’s an oxymoron: stylish waste. Imagine toting waste over your arm or clutching it between your fingers as you shop around town. At the mere thought, most of us are likely grimacing. Yet, some of the most distinct and, dare we say fashionable fashion, is made from the very pieces we discard into oblivion. Well, not exactly oblivion, but that’s the thing about our newspapers, magazines, candy wrappers, juice boxes, milk cartons and more. Whether we recycle them or simply tumble them into the garbage chute, we rarely see the other side of waste—the landfills where it lives out its endless days.
So, when we came across these totes from UrthBags (like the ones below), made of recycled magazines, juice box liners and other castaway landfill-filling materials, we shrieked with joy. Stylish and paradigm shifting, these day and night carryalls reimagine waste with a fashion statement. And we don’t mind the trash talking that comes with it. In fact, that’s one of the beautiful side effects.
Which got this Organic Girly thinking. Just what is the true tale behind everyday items once they’ve left our homes and our hands? I dove deeper and discovered a few fascinating facts. According to the Clean Air Council, every year Americans alone use one billion shopping bags, equaling 300,000 tons—that’s TONS—of largely non-biodegradable landfill waste. What’s more, the average American uses the equivalent of one, 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree EACH year in paper and wood products. Some of that paper is dedicated to coveted glossy fashion spreads, resulting in 350 million magazines circulating each year. In a summary on the “Human Footprint”, a National Geographic special report, the Green Contributor cited that we consume an average of 25 pounds of candy every year, or over 14,000 bars in the standard American lifetime. And, most of the sleek, logo emblazoned packages this candy is bundled within, cannot be readily recycled due to its mixed content. Aside from high sugar health alerts, the sheer volume of 14,000 candy wrappers discarded per person in just one lifetime is staggering. In a world of fast fashion, textile waste generation is also eye-opening although not terribly surprising. Each year the average American tosses away 68 pounds of clothing and accessories including the handbags we once coveted.
The upside is that as a country and as citizens we are recycling more and more each year. In 1980, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its report “Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling and Disposal in the United States – 2010”, we recycled just 10 percent of what we generated. As of 2010, that number was 34 percent and even higher for some categories like paper, of which more than 62 percent was recycled. At the same time, the amount of waste each of us generates on a daily basis is increasing, reaching 4.43 pounds in 2010.
Which leads us back to the notion of rethinking and repurposing waste. While fortunately far from a novelty in our world abuzz with greener products, we’re hopeful fashion pieces like those from Urth Bags will become the norm, keeping trash out of landfills, oxygen in the air and lasting fashion at our fingertips—free of the hefty human health and environmental price tag our beloved bags often carry. And should we ever tire of our totes, we suggest sharing its life story and passing it along. Bit by bit, every morsel of trash up-cycled, recycled or simply never produced, adds up to a tote bag’s worth of ecosystem-savings for a sustainably stylish future. Priceless savings, all from a purse.
Julie Recycled Magazine Yoga Mat Bag
Heather Recycled Juiced Box Handbag
Elle Recycled Juice Box Clutch
(Top photo compliments of Magic Madzik. All other photos compliments of UrthBags.)
love + waste-less holiday cheers, Organic Girly