London-Based Brand Launches Fully Circular Bag Collection

by Creating Change Mag
London-Based Brand Launches Fully Circular Bag Collection

London-based Troubadour launched this month a collection of fully circular bags. Yes, you simply send the bag in after you’re done with it (hopefully, after using it for at least 5 years), and then the company can break it down to turn into a new bag, says Samuel Bail, co-founder of Troubadour.

This effort to make truly circular bags has been years in the making, adds Samantha Jacob, Creative Director at Troubadour, and is a first-of-its-kind in the industry.

The new fully circular collection, called Orbis, features two backpack styles, a duffle, and a laptop tote— essentially three of their best-selling categories, which the team wanted to make more “sustainable.”

Jacob worked with manufacturers to simplify the number of materials used in each bag to make the recycling process easier. While their bags typically have about 40 components that go into each one, the circular collection designs have just 16 components — or less than half.

“The biggest problem with recycling has been that there’s so many components so a lot of energy goes into breaking down the item, and separating all the various materials,” says Jacob.

That’s why they had to start at the designing stage. Jacob went through countless iterations to come up with a design that would still have the appeal of a Troubadour bag — the quality, the aesthetic, and practicality — but be done with fewer materials.

Three areas of the product posed a challenge: the lining used inside the bags, the PU (a polymer based) adhesive that holds different layers of the bag together, and lastly, the leather.

“One of the most challenging materials to swap out,” Bail says, “is the PU adhesive used to bind different parts of the bag. In fact, we went to trade shows where we saw people talking about circular bags, and yes, while the individual layers themselves were made of circular material, we’d ask, ‘What are you using to hold it together?’ And the answer we’d get, with a few smirks, was PU glue.”

That’s why the process took years to figure out how to get around these hurdles, iterates Jacob. But ultimately they did and the new Orbis collection is now available in their London store as well as online. When customers want to send back the bag, they’ll receive a pre-paid label to have it shipped back to their recycler in the UK (with more being added in the coming years to reduce the shipping distance).

Although the bag is made of polyester, Bail and Jacob note that by having one material, they’re able to ensure a fully recyclable bag.

“The reason we went with polyester ultimately was that it doesn’t get downgraded when you recycle it down. Some materials are not as strong when you try to repurpose them. With polyester, we know we can get another bag that’s just as strong and durable as the first one,” adds Bail. “Plus, because it’s a bag, and not clothing, microplastics are less of a concern here.”

Troubadour has set an ambitious goal to transition their entire lineup of products to being circular by the end of 2024.

“When we set out to do this, a lot of people told us, ‘Don’t do this. It’s too early. It’s not possible,’” says Bail. “But one of the exciting things for us is that it is possible, and we can hopefully show others how it can be done. We really hope that other brands copy what we’re doing. That’s the #1 goal here.”

Despite the “craziness” of this project, Jacob says, one of their manufacturers has actually become an ambassador of this circular initiative, and rallied together more people in the industry to take on this challenge. “We’re finding that our manufacturers are willing to go on this journey with us, and have been supportive, even if we have driven them a bit mad. So it’s definitely worth pursuing,” adds Jacob.

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