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Turning fashion's abundance of polybag waste into a resource to create retail fixtures.

Photo of Chelsea McCullough
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Introducing ReFix. My design intervention at addressing waste reduction in the denim packaging industry, or retail industry as a whole. ReFix is a new entity within the system, with the goal of using the polybags as a resource for the production of retail fixtures. 

ReFix is a third party retail fixture provider, that utilizes the polybags to create mannequins, hangers, shelving, cases, and other fixtures that retailers need. The system works by setting up bins within the stores and then picks up the polybags at NO CHARGE from local retailers. This resources is then reused by extruding the plastic into molds or creating a filament to be used in 3D printing, which I have begun to experiment with. The ability to 3D print this would add to the value and enable customization of retail fixtures. 

With the implementation of this new entity, we would be able to reduce waste of fashion packaging and create a circular economy. Keeping this plastic within the fashion industry will allow one to control where it ends up. Participating retailers will be able to return any broken or old fixtures back to ReFix for further recycling. By participating in the program, retailers would be entitled to a discount structure on fixtures for recycling certain amounts of polybags. 

With LDPE plastic among the highest used for packaging at 17.8%, there is a great market for this resource to be utilized. Not only can these fixtures be sold back to retailers, but hangers would be available to consumers as well. Knowing that your pair of jeans hung in your closet was on a hanger made from the bag that they were shipped in would be a great feeling at helping to achieve a zero-waste lifestyle. 

Company / Organization Name

Student at the Wilson School of Design through Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Where are you / your team located?

Vancouver, British Columbia

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

This idea closes the loop on polybag waste by utilizing the polybags as a resource, keeping the wasted product within the fashion cycle by converting it into common retail fixtures that would normally be purchased anyways. By incentivizing retailers to recycle through free pick ups and a discount structure on purchasing fixtures. The more the retailer recycles, the higher discount and more options to create quick custom products, especially with the use of 3D printing.

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

Currently, within Vancouver there are only two options for retailers at present to recycle this type of plastic: pay high fees to a third party recycling centre or dispose of them in the garbage. Retailers more than often choose the landfill option.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

I envision that this solution could be implemented within cities, as pick-up of these polybags need to be economical for the model to work. Current obstacles are finding an effective way of converting this plastic into a filament that is usable in current 3D printers. Customization is a key selling feature for the fixtures, therefore using polybags as a resource needs to be efficient and attainable. Further testing is needed to ensure the accuracy of the extrusion, along with 3D printer advances

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.
  • Prototyping: You have conducted some small tests or experiments with prospective users and will continue developing idea through these tests.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

Becoming a Top Idea would allow the advancement of pro-typing of converting the polybags into a successful filament in 3D printing. My main goal is to create and prove the system of recycling polybags into a valued product, utilizing the customization and efficiency of 3D printing. Once this is achieved, the design and production of retail fixtures using this filament would need to developed. With product created, a pilot program can be implemented with local retailers to prove this concept.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

This idea began by examining the denim industry for a school project by identifying all the key players within the production of denim, the distribution, the sales, and eventually the end-of-life cycle of a pair of jeans. As my research into the denim industry grew, the connections I was discovering within this system became more complex and through interviews with stakeholders I discovered the hidden problem that brands do not focus on and general consumers are not aware of- polybags.

Tell us about your work experience

I have 15 years experience in sales within the surf/snowboard fashion industry. The past two years I have been working to complete my Product Design Degree, with two years remaining before graduating.

Attachments (1)

ReFix Presentation.pdf

Visual's explaining process, including actual prototyping and testing.


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