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Beat the Bag: from waste to wealth

Creating local employment by using local residual material to sew reusable bags, a sustainable alternative for the polluting plastic bag.

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Beat the Bag (BTB) is a widely applicable and simple concept: creating employment by turning sewable waste materials into reusable bags. Local employment is created for people who are in need for this and would like to make a positive contribution for society. Sewable waste materials often end up at the landfill or incinerator, this consists of a wide range of high-quality materials, such as promotional material (banners and flags), temporarily emergency shelter, damaged sailcloth from boats, etc. The bag that will be made from these waste materials is reusable and unique, providing an alternative for the single-use plastic bags that currently end up in the ‘plastic soup’ polluting our planet. With BTB we turn trash into treasure and provide opportunities for unused talents.

BTB exists since 2015 in the Netherlands (NL); circular consultant VerdraaidGoed developed the concept. The focus in NL is on turning promotional materials from companies into unique bags that could be used within the same company. With the expertise from VerdraaidGoed BTB is an easy-implementable concept in different contexts. After analyzing the local context (suitable materials, stakeholders and possible sales channels), the business model of BTB can be easily adapted and launched quickly. The Red Cross recognized this value and therefore we collaborate in order to implement BTB in Sint Maarten (SXM). In 2017 hurricane Irma passes over the Caribbean region, SXM gets the full blast. There is massive upheaval to people’s lives, with some inhabitants of the island losing everything and needing clean drinking water, food and shelter. Now that the first phase of providing emergency aid is over, it is time to start rebuilding people’s homes and lives. We believe BTB can make a positive change to make the economy thrive again by reused the local sewable waste and by creating local employment. With the operating BTB-NL and the pilot BTB-SXM, the BTB model will be optimised and expanded globally.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are people (adults) all around the world who are in need for employment, either because they have a distance to the labor market or because they lost their previous job as a result of a crisis situation. Depending on the local context the BTB-team will be composed of:
- Business owner(s). People who aspire to become a social entrepreneur and will benefit from the ready-to-implement concept.
- Production team. In NL production takes place by people whom have a disability or a migrant background, both situations are hard for finding a regular job in NL. In SXM the production team consists of people whom lost their job in the aftermath of hurricane Irma.
- Sales team. In NL this team overlaps with the above. In SXM these are shops/resellers in the tourist industry. Due to the hurricane this industry collapsed and many materials were lost. With BTB these shops/resellers are provided with new unique bags that can be sold to the tourists.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

VerdraaidGoed has 7 years experience as a circular consultant and therefore is skilled in ‘scouting’ waste materials suitable for starting a circular business model, with appropriate products and sales channels for the local context. This is also how BTB originated and is being implemented in different contexts. Thus in every situation and location a unique set of elements are identified that will be applied in the existing business model, this makes the concept easily implementable within the local context, resulting in a successful social enterprise.

The bags themselves are also unique; since these are made from waste material they all have a slightly different appearance, making these bags real collector’s items. Furthermore, since the bags are hand-made, these can be easily personalised by adding a print, brand label or information card.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.
  • Full Scale Roll Out: I have already tested and scaled this idea significantly with the intended user base.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

VerdraaidGoed (https://verdraaidgoed.nl/) is a circular consultant; we analyze companies’ waste streams, develop circular concepts help with the realization of these concepts. Beat the Bag (http://beatthebag.com/) is one of the spin-off projects, resulting from consultancy work. In 2018 we collaborated with the Red Cross in order to apply BTB in other contexts in need for this, starting with Sint Maarten (http://beatthebag.sx/).

Expertise in sector

  • 5-7 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered social enterprise.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

In 2015 an amendment of the European law was announced which prohibited the use of free plastic bags. This encouraged us to develop an alternative sustainable concept for bags based on the available waste streams, in order to prevent new waste and utilise the existing waste. We identified the opportunity to make reusable bags from old promotional material, this resulted in BTB- NL. In 2018 the Red Cross recognised the value of this concept for areas affected by a disaster, resulting in BTB-SXM.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

The topic ‘Planet’ is on the one hand influenced by preventing and reducing waste streams, since the single-use plastic bag is being replaced by a reusable bag. On the other hand existing waste is being utilized, because sewable waste material (flags, banners, tarpaulins, etc.) are avoided from being incinerated or landfilled.

The topic ‘Prosperity’ is influenced by creating employment for people in need. Hence these people will be empowered and assisted in implementing the Beat the Bag concept in their local context. By doing so they could make an active and positive contribution in society.

The topic ‘Peace’ is indirectly influenced, since in a healthy living and working environment there will be less reason for insurgency. If we care for planet and prosperity, peace will follow.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

A variety of stakeholders are involved in BTB for the material collection and the production and sales of the bags. The type of stakeholders depends on the local context. In NL we collaborate with production partners at sheltered workspaces. Furthermore our partners in the signing industry (producers of banners, flags, etc.) play an important role, since they can stimulate their clients to hand in the banners again after use so these can be turned into bags. In SXM we collaborate with communities who collect the material, active in the nautical industry (producers of sails for boats). As a small island SXM does not have own waste processing facilities, so making bags is a good alternative for landfilling or exporting this waste. Another important stakeholder is aid organizations and NGO’s (i.e. the Red Cross), since they bring temporary shelter after the hurricane. For this tarpaulin is used, which they do not want to leave as waste on the island after use.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The communities we work with have a strong motivation to work and learn. In SXM the inhabitants suffered great losses after the hurricane and a huge amount of waste is everywhere. This has a significant detrimental impact on the environment, public health and residents’ morale, because it is a daily reminder of the devastating hurricane. With BTB we want to kick-start the reconstruction process by providing jobs, clean the environment and turn the traumatic experience into something promising.

Geographic Focus

Worldwide: in areas with a need for employment and locally available sewable waste material.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

The idea can be implemented within 12 – 24 months. Within the first year there will be intensive support from VerdraaidGoed and the Red Cross. VerdraaidGoed provides the copy-paste business model (including bag models, instructions, etc.) and advice regarding the implementation. The Red Cross provides financial support by means of a start-up loan. After the first year it should operate independently, after the second year it should be profitable.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

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