Materials update

It has been a while since we have talked shop, so now is as good a time as any to update you on Brisbane Outdoor Gear happenings!  You may have noticed we have finally got a product ready for sale.  In some previous posts we have talked about materials that we have investigated, so I am sure you are interested to know what we decided to use for our messenger bag range.

We have chosen a couple of materials for use in the bag range; the most consistent of them all is the use of old billboards as weatherproof liner tubs.  Billboards are tough, bright, weather resistant, UV proof, and are printed on PVC.  Typically billboards are presented on road sides for four weeks, and then torn down.  The billboards are either then rotated to a new road side position, stored for a period of time so it can be used at a later date, or discarded.  There are very few recycling plants that will deal with PVC, especially on a large scale basis, and as such billboard "skins" are typically relegated to landfill.

Here is where Brisbane Outdoor Gear comes in.  We collect the skins before they reach landfill, scrub and clean them, then slice and dice them up into "new" liners for our bag range.  We are now using something that was going to trash.  As the saying goes, trash has now become treasure.  This is fantastic because it not only reduces the need for new PVC material to be bought, but also uses technically "old" stuff that would have otherwise never degraded in landfill and would have existed for centuries.  From the point of view of a practical product, the material although "old" is still very new having only been used for 4 weeks and never creased, crushed, flexed, stained, scratched, or generally "used".  The material is bright, waterproof, UV resistant, tough, while each individual bag is unique as we never purchase two billboards of the same print.  So from a consumer end, you receive a product that is better for the environment, is tough, waterproof, very very bright, and individually unique!  What more could you ask for?

Now we move to the outside of the bags.  For as long as we are able to, we will be sourcing scrap canvas for use on the outside of our bags.  The canvas is collected from a local supplier who has piles of off-cuts, roll ends, or "flawed" pieces.  Roll ends as the name suggests are the end of the roll of fabric - usually of a size too small to be used in a manufacturing situation.  So for example some of our canvas is roll ends from camping awning manufacturers; the minimum size the awning manufacturer can use is hypothetically 1m x 1.5m.  If the roll end is smaller than this it is discarded; thankfully we can use fabric smaller than this, and so once again trash has become treasure!  "Flawed" pieces of fabric usually have a small stain, a slipped thread, or some such ailment.  If the flaw isn't structural we will incorporate it into the bag so that it can be seen that the bag has already "lived a life".  If it is structural, we will cut it out and use the remaining good fabric.

This canvas is very tough, has a water resistant coating (which wears off over time), and was also collected before heading to landfill.  So again we have a perfect material for our bag range.  The only problem however is that this supply is limited; if our supplier no longer has stock of off cuts (due to less demand for camping awnings) we in turn will no longer have a material to work with.  The second problem is that of aesthetics.  The scrap canvas that we are collecting at the moment is only grey.  There are no bright colours; there are no reds, no deep blues, no bright greens.  There is only grey.  This in itself is not a major problem, but being the expressive beings that we are, we yearn for bright colours and unique prints.  So what we propose to do is continue sourcing this "scrap" canvas for as long as stockpiles permit.  In conjunction with this canvas, we will be sourcing some bright material for something different.

And now we come to our other outer material used in our baggage, 1000D nylon.  Ultimately we want to source recycled or reclaimed nylon, but unfortunately economic circumstances don't permit this.  Recycled nylon and polyester can be found but is exorbitantly expensive; an order of 3000m would need to be placed.  Of this 3000m order, 1500m would be of a single colour - how boring?!  Besides 3000m of fabric is more than we know what to do with.  Being a small manufacturing studio, such a stockpile of material would take us years to get through!

And so we are left with the option of sourcing new material.  Not at all ideal, yet still allows us freedom of expression through uniquely coloured bags.  Ultimately we want to use recycled material, yet until economic circumstances improve we will be unable.  What we propose to do is purchase and use new brightly coloured material in our bags, allowing us the ability to stockpile funds so that we can purchase recycled material when we can afford to do so.

It should be said however that this new material, despite being practical for use in bags, is harmful to the environment.  So this new 1000D nylon material will only be used as an interim measure.  We will use canvas for as long as time permits, use new material until we have a stockpile of funds, and then purchase the recycled material.  Does this sound like a good compromise?  It allows us the ability to grow as a company, gives you the ability to choose a bag that suits your personality, and helps the environment as best as we can given the circumstances.

The 1000D nylon we are using is commonly known as "air textured nylon".  Each individual strand of fibre making the fabric is tougher and more abrasion resistant than standard un-textured 1000D nylon.  Although not brand name, the material we are sourcing is similar to Cordura.  Cordura has the brand name, the market following, the slightly better characteristics, and unfortunately the higher price tag.  Our sourced material isn't as tough and abrasion resistant as Cordura, yet is so unbelievably close.  To us the slight difference in material characteristics doesn't equal an increase of 25% - 35% in price.

So to sum up this post, every bag will be using reclaimed billboard liners, while the outer will be a mix of reclaimed canvas or new 1000D nylon.  

A bag constructed with billboard inner and canvas outer will be around 80% - 90% reclaimed.

A bag constructed with new 1000D nylon outer will be around 40-50% reclaimed.

Every single bag will have the percentage of reclaimed material by weight handwritten on its "birth certificate", which comes with the bag.

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