In 2017, adidas launched an initiative to turn marine plastic into sneakers. Then came Stella McCartney, who launched a partnership with non-profit Parley For The Oceans to use recycled nylon and polyester in her products. Recently, Prada announced that by 2021, its signature nylon bags will be made from ocean plastics and fishing nets. Call it the Blue Planet effect, but it seems plastic waste has never been buzzier.
For Mr Jasper Eales, the creative brains behind South African outdoors brand Sealand Gear, the burgeoning “trend” for ocean plastic hits closer to home. The Cape Town native, who was “born and bred on the beach”, is a keen outdoorsman who often witnesses plastic pollution first-hand. “Myself and my business partner, Mike [Schlebach], we’re both men of the ocean and the outdoors,” he says. “One starts to notice very quickly the plastic washing ashore, or when you go for a trail run or a hike in the mountains. Those are the things that, if you’re more outdoor minded, tend to bother you more.” Having met while consulting on a design project – Mr Schlebach was already working to transform disposed yacht sails into bags – the pair were inspired to team up and create a wider range of lifestyle products that would help protect the landscape they loved. And so, in 2016, Sealand’s line of outdoor gear, made from upcycled and recycled materials, was born.
The company is run from a studio in Cape Town’s southern peninsula, where the brand’s core pillars seep into every aspect of production. “Everyone talks about being sustainable, but it can mean so many different things,” says Mr Eales. “I prefer to talk about being environmentally and socially responsible.” For Sealand, this means crafting a collection of travel bags from Recover material, a blend of recycled PET and cotton waste, which is sourced from a factory in Spain that runs off more than 50 per cent renewable energy and doesn’t use water or chemicals in the dyeing process. Meanwhile, discarded materials such as old yacht sails, tents, advertising billboards and tarpaulin from trucks are all upcycled to create sturdy, weatherproof totes and backpacks. “These sorts of materials are really durable, even in their spent form,” says Mr Eales. “So, once they’ve been used and generally go into landfill, they still have huge value to them, and we wanted to create products that would give them another life.” Bedouin stretch tents are transformed into duffle bags, while an old billboard becomes the lining of a belt bag, each individual item bearing its own unique patina.