Bags, backpacks and accessories made out of used billboards, tarps, and other inspired detritus are a classic example of “upcycling.” That is, re-using something that’s met the end of its “first life” as something at least as durable and long-lasting in its “second life.” Not only that, but entrepreneurs have managed to do well taking advantage of practically free raw materials while earning a little “eco street cred” on the side.
One of the pioneers in the trend has been Freitag. The Swiss bag manufacturer has been making stylish and durable goods out of European “Truck Tarpaulins” since 1993 to great acclaim – building an 80+ person company and winning design awards left and right.
With Truck Tarpaulins uncommon in the US, discarded billboards have also become a hugely popular raw material for bags, as evidenced by the dozens of start ups who’ve made use of them. But a big challenge remains on the supply chain side – it takes a lot of effort and connections to establish a reliable source of, say, billboard material in order to run a predictable operation.
That’s where the networking genius of TerraCycle can play a role – in this case, helping Yak-Pak.
TerraCycle, the maker of “worm poop fertilizer” has realized a second, and perhaps even more lucrative business opportunity lies in helping companies find innovative ways to reuse their packaging. They’ve formed relationships with just about every consumer packaged goods company you’ve ever heard of, from Frito-Lay to Capri Sun.
TerraCycle partners with schools & communities, as well as companies to provide easy ways for consumers to return used packaging – sometimes with a financial incentive, sometimes out of sheer good will. The materials collected are then passed on to producers, artists and more, who find clever, and profitable ways to re-use the material.
Lest I ramble, TerraCycle’s partnership with Yak Pak makes perfect sense. Yak Pak was looking to reduce their environmental footprint, but needed the materials expertise that TerraCycle brings to the table. TerraCycle has managed to figure out how to source discarded billboards in large enough amounts, and YakPak is putting them all together in a stylish and durable manner that’s bound to be a hit.
From a TerraCycle spokesperson:
TerraCycle’s extensive connections with the Marketing and Brand teams at major CPG companies gave us an ‚Äòinside track’ to sourcing very large numbers of billboards. At first Coca-Cola connected us to Clear Channel to take many of their billboards. From there we were able to partner with the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, which has created the consistent stream of billboard vinyl we required for our Partnerhsip with Yak Pak.
To top things off, everything is manufactured in a plant in El Salvador, powered entirely by hydroelectricity – wholly owned by Yak Pak, and, according to the company, paying fair wages and offering good conditions.
Now… if only they could both conspire to keep those billboards out of sight forever.