At Tchoup Industries, we strive to use existing materials as much as possible. The idea of transforming pre-used fabrics into functional bags that may otherwise end up in a landfill or littering our gulf waters is very important to us personally and aligns well with our environmental mission as a business.
The newest recycled material we’ve introduced into our collection is printed PVC banner. Originally created as resilient outdoor signage, this material is extremely durable and water-resistant. We also very much appreciate the unique and sometimes colorful printed graphic elements which yield a whole new look to our bag assortment and offers our customers yet another way to score a truly custom accessory.
Tackling this "upcycling" process is no easy task, and usually involves many additional hours for acquisition, cutting, and washing. We’re still happy to put in the extra work to see trash transformed into functional treasures. Here’s a step-by-step look at the tasks and labor going into each banner bag we sell.
Step 1: Coordination with Local Organizations
We’ve made many new friends by recycling banners into bags, and often work directly with members of local non-profit organizations as well as the banner printers themselves (Uptown Graphics - conveniently located within a quarter mile of our shop!). Discussions include when the banner will be coming down, storage, timing for pick up, and the overall plan of what they’d like to have made.
Step 2: Picking Up the Banner
Our own personal vehicles are used to pick up these banners that are sometimes very large and heavy, and always dirty!
Step 3: Cutting the Banner
We prefer to cut down the dirty banners before washing so that they are in more manageable pieces that can fit in a sink or washing machine. The fully unrolled banners barely fit in our shop -much less on our cutting table - so we’re often unrolling them as much as possible in our back courtyard for cutting. (Many thanks to our backdoor neighbors for their patience through this process!)
What makes cutting recycled materials like this one even more time consuming is working around blemishes, tears, rusty spots, and scalloped air vents. We make sure we’re getting as many usable pieces as possible so very little ends up in the trash bin at the end of the day.
Step 4: Washing & Drying
Most of the banners we receive have been hanging outside near a road or construction site for multiple months. They collect a lot of dirt, dust and grime and need to be washed and scrubbed before making them into bags. We get this washing done wherever and however it is most convenient. I’ve used my farmer friend’s veggie wash bin, my own kitchen sink, our tiny shop bathroom sink, and most recently my home washing machine. They usually need another 12-24 hours to hang dry and be ready for sewing.
Step 5: Sewing
From here on out the process looks pretty similar to our other bag production. The individual panels are piled up and ready to assemble into bags. We have heavy-duty sewing machines that make quick work stitching together the thick, coated banner panels.
It is worth noting that only two of these five steps are incorporated into the price of our recycled banner bags: Cutting & Sewing. All other hours spent on coordination, pick up and washing are considered volunteer hours that we dutifully contribute on behalf of our planet. Thus, recycling used banners into bags is a true labor of love for Tchoup Industries, and we truly hope the end product brings similar value and meaning to every happy customer’s experience.
A little more back story….
Our original recycled banner tote was born out of a conversation with the folks at Life City, an eco non-profit with a mission to support the green initiatives of local New Orleans businesses. They dropped off an event step-and-repeat banner and asked to have it cut and sewn into bags they could use for future fundraising. We were happy to give it a shot and appreciated this additional layer of our core brand alignment – collaborating with our local community.
Ever since we made those first bags, we’ve had more requests from local organizations – most notably New Orleans City Park and Bayou Boogaloo – to collaborate on re-purposing this colorful and durable material that would otherwise end up in the trash bin. With a surplus of banner on hand, and a very capable summer intern Darcy Fabre on staff, we decided to make banner the key element of our Summer Limited Edition Collection. With Darcy’s design help and hands-on material prep, we were able to convert local banners into some of our most popular items as well as 2 all-new bags!
Shop all of our items made from recycled fabric here.