Vela paper bags are said to be the first FSC-certified tissue bag for garments

Vela paper bags are said to be the first FSC-certified tissue bag for garments

US lifestyle brand Outerknown is eliminating plastic polybags from its global supply network in favour of paper bags – and says that by next autumn all of its suppliers will be using this more sustainable alternative.

The brand has partnered with sustainable and recyclable packaging solutions specialist Vela, and is working with its factories to transition each one to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified tissue bags, which are carbon neutral and more widely recyclable than plastic.

The move is part of Outerknown's commitment to become a fully circular brand by 2030, which includes its packaging.

Plastic polybags are traditionally used across the fashion industry to transport products between factories and warehouses. While they might momentarily keep a product safe, Outerknown explains they are extremely hard to recycle and often end up in landfill or the environment, where they break down into microplastics.

"An estimated 180 billion polybags are produced every year for the fashion industry, and less than 15% are gathered for recycling. If we continue down this path, by 2050 there will be more plastic in our ocean than fish (by weight). So we're changing course," the company says in a blog post.

Megan Stoneburner, director of sustainability and sourcing, adds: "As a first step, we will eliminate plastic packaging from our operations by replacing all polybags with Vela bags. We will continue to reduce our use of virgin forest fibres and increase our use of recycled content across our packaging."

Vela paper bags are said to be the first FSC-certified tissue bag for garments.

The commitment aligns with Outerknown's membership of a new initiative launched by Columbia Sportswear Company's prAna label last month to help brands remove plastic and virgin-forest-fibre packaging from their supply chains.

A series of similar initiatives have been rolled out across the industry in recent months as part of a move away from plastic packaging and greater recognition of the need to develop more sustainable alternatives.

A pilot scheme that aims to tackle the issue of plastic polybag waste in the fashion industry recently relaunched after coming to a pause earlier this year due to the outbreak of coronavirus. The Polybag Collection Scheme Pilot was initially launched in February in a partnership between recycling company First Mile and global sustainable fashion innovation platform Fashion for Good. It aims to test the ability to develop scalable recycling infrastructure in one key city region.

The pilot project followed the December announcement of the Circular Polybag Pilot by Fashion for Good, which works to reduce the use and impact of virgin polybags in the fashion industry by developing a fully circular solution based on recycled content.