By hannah rochell
12 january 2022
Protecting people and the planet is at the core of everything we do at BOTTLETOP and #TOGETHERBAND. You might already know about the recycled Parley Ocean Plastic® rope and Humanium Metal we use to make our SDG-supporting bands, but our love of sustainable materials actually began back in 2002 when we first started on our BOTTLETOP journey.
After an initial run of bags made from offcuts of leather and bottle tops (hence the name), we discovered the beauty and versatility of something even more prevalent when it comes to waste: aluminium ring pulls. With 1.5 million tonnes of drinks cans discarded every year, we saw the opportunity to upcycle what would otherwise be seen as rubbish and turn it into something beautiful to treasure in your wardrobe for years. So how do we do it?
Our bestselling Bellani mini bag in stone
Where we source our ring pulls
We have always had a close relationship with the country of Brazil. Not only is it home to the Amazon rainforest, one of the areas of the world that it’s most important to protect in order to deal with the climate emergency (top of our agenda), but it’s also the country where our artisans make our BOTTLETOP bags in our dedicated atelier near Salvadore.
In Brazil, waste picking is supported by the government and is recognised as a profession, which means that we can source our main raw material locally. We buy our ring pulls directly from collectors - or ‘catadores’ as they are known locally - in Brazil, who source them from the streets where they have already come loose from the cans. Paying the collectors per kilo means they receive more than they would get by selling them to recycling centres. The ring pulls are then all individually sorted, filed, polished, ready to be transformed into a luxury fashion item.
Aluminium rules when it comes to recycling
Aluminium is one of the few infinitely recyclable materials in the world, meaning it can be recycled over and over again. Recycling it only uses 5% of the energy needed to smelt raw aluminium, and using one tonne of recycled aluminium saves a massive 9 tonnes of carbon emissions.
This also means that your BOTTLETOP bag can be deconstructed at the end of its life and the aluminium ring pulls can be recycled again and again. Forever! We accept back old BOTTLETOP bags so that we can take care of this process for you, not that we expect you to want to give yours up any time soon, of course.
Aluminium is super lightweight
With its status as one of the lightest metals in the world, aluminium is the perfect material to carry around on your day-to-day business. Our roomy totes, classic clutches and handy hands-free belt bags will add oomph to any outfit without weighing you down.
In spite of its featherweight properties, aluminium is also really strong, so your BOTTLETOP bag is robust as well as beautiful. It looks brilliant in its raw metal silvery shade, but it can also be hand painted or anodised to add colour. We like to use anodising because it is one of the most environmentally-friendly ways you can add colour to metal.
Our chainmail crochet
What was once rubbish littering the streets of Brazil is given a new life as a luxury textile by our skilled artisans in Brazil. They do this by crocheting the ring pulls by hand, transforming them into our signature chainmail, which can be arranged in a number of different designs including our complex Mistura braiding, before being constructed into our bags.
It takes one of our artisans eight hours to make one of our bestselling Bellani bags, using a total of 1,152 ring pulls. Once finished, all of our bags are truly wearable works of art. Find out more about our atelier and the people who make our bags here.
Our forest-friendly leather
Cattle ranching accounts for 80% of Amazon deforestation. As well as contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation makes forest fires more likely, contributes to soil erosion and reduces rainfall, all things we want to avoid.
This is why we work with the National Wildlife Federation to source our leather from responsible ranches. It’s called Zero Deforestation Leather, because it’s guaranteed not to contribute to deforestation. Working in this way not only preserves the Amazon rainforest, but empowers the farmers to continue working in a way that improves forest conservation.
Our low-impact tanning techniques
Leather needs to be tanned before it can be used to make products, but modern tanning techniques use chemicals that are harmful both to the environment and to the people who work with the leather. The most common technique used is chrome tanning; in some commercial operations 50% of the chromium used in the tanning process finds its way into the local environment. High concentrations of chromium in waterways can cause serious health issues as well as problems with local agriculture.
That’s not the case with our leather, which is processed using techniques that are cleaner and kinder all-round. We work with a tannery in Brazil called Couroquímica, which is rated Gold by the Leather Working Group - the best possible rating leather can have.
Our Margot bag with anodised ring pulls and Zero Deforestation Leather
Our recycled lining
Nearly half of the world’s clothing is made from polyester: bad news when you consider that polyester is plastic, which in turn is made from crude oil. This is not a good thing when it comes to environmental impact.
The silky BOTTLETOP print lining in our leather bags is made from recycled polyester, or rPET, saving energy and giving an eye-catching second life to single-use plastics. We also use natural cotton to line our ring pull bags, and we will be switching this to organic cotton soon.
We’re not perfect
While we make every effort to use responsibly sourced materials, it’s not always easy to get it right, so we’re always striving to do better. We’ve spent the past few years searching for a strong recycled thread to use on our bags and we think we’ve nearly cracked it with something planet-friendly that will also be the high performance you’d expect from BOTTLETOP.
We also know that not everyone wants to wear leather, and while many bags in our range are leather-free, we’re working on a range of vegan bags made using plant-based leathers and recycled polyester.
Shop our bags and accessories at bottletop.org