Guest Post: ReMaterialise- Plastic Bags into Fantastic Bags

ReMaterialise shopping bags (photos: Fi Leaning).
I discovered ReMaterialise at the beginning of this year. I can’t recall exactly how I stumbled upon their website, I was probably looking for a creative ways to reuse plastics. I was finding all sorts of innovative ways to re-use plastic bags, and plastic bag fusing seemed the best way to use heaps of bags to make a useful and strong item. I attempted plastic bag fusing myself, and I quickly learned it was not easy! It is a slow process of painstakingly ironing plastic bags on a low heat. My finished product was a wonky sheet of plastic that I used as a place mat for the cat bowl. 

About a month ago I unexpectedly found myself meeting the creator of ReMaterialise, Fi, while I was volunteering for Ecomatters. I was very excited to meet Fi, and may have fan-girled a bit as I knew all about ReMateralise. We had a great conversation about plastic bags, being plastic free and the waste stream in New Zealand. Fi is actually very anti-plastic bags and wants them banned, meaning ReMaterialise would go out of business but to Fi that means her business was a success.

Fi Leaning from ReMateralise
ReMaterialise was born from a desire to use up the plastic bags I had accumulated over a few years as I didn’t want to throw them away. I looked around online and did lots of research and I came across fusing, it has taken years to perfect the process.
We take at least 40 single use plastic supermarket bags and turn them into 1 reusable shopping bag. More bags are used if we are doing some funky design. The bags are big enough to replace between 3-5 bags at the supermarket while still being comfortable to carry. They will replace around 1000 plastic bags from being used in their lifetime.
Each bag takes around 3 1/2 hours to make, much much longer if the design is very intricate. The longest a bag has taken me is around 8 hours. As each piece is unique there is usually lots of trial and error involved in getting it just right.
I consider myself to be a mad scientist, creative recycler, plastic artist and environmentalist along with Mother, wife, daughter, sister. Some of my favorite designs have taken many many hours to make.
I get my bags from Countdown plastic recycling bins, people send them to me in the post or via courier. I have a few collections around Auckland from time to time. Most of my bags come from people wanting to make a change from plastic to reusable and want to get rid of their bottom drawer collection. We do end up with lots of bags we cant use, and there is always scrap plastic, these are all put into bales next to my house and are collected by Enviroreelwho is an Auckland company who recycle plastic on a massive scale. None of the plastic that reaches us ends up in landfill.
I am very anti plastic bags, I am completely miffed that our government refused to help us put a levy on plastic bags. Part of our mission is to educate people against using so many disposable products. We have become a very throw away society and we need to rethink that and go back to reusing things. Plastic bags are made from a non renewable resource and are designed to be used once and thrown away where they will survive for ever. Our process and mission is to give a longer more productive life to this waste stream so that eventually its production may actually have been worth it.
To date we have recycled around 60,000 plastic bags and have sent triple that amount off to be recycled by Enviroreel. With luck though we hope to run out of plastic bags and then I will know my business was a success and we will find something else to manufacture out of another kind of waste. But until then we have a never ending supply of plastic to work with.
We are a business, but currently not profitable, as with most recycling companies getting the word out there takes up a huge amount of our time and effort and any profits that we do make is plunged back into the business so we can recycle even more plastic.
YES we can take your plastic for recycling, YES you can follow us on social media and YES you can buy one of our fab bags, a great talking point at the supermarket.
Fi Leaning
@ReMaterialise #ReMaterialiseBags

ReMaterialise make other goodies such as wallets, notebooks, cloth bags and pouches
A quick word on plastic bag recycling
It was announced a few months ago that New Zealand will be trialing large scale plastic bag recycling. This is excellent news, however, this does not mean that it is now sustainable to use plastic bags. It is not! Plastic bags still get in the environment and cause harm to animals, plants and fish. They do not degrade, and eventually turn to micro plastics which slowly work their way up the food chain. The bio-degradable bags are no better, these take years to degrade in the right environment and can cause just as much environmental degradation. In New Zealand around 40,000 plastic bags are disposed of to landfill every hour. Quit using single use plastic bags, get a reusable bag. 



  1. Danielle @ No Need for Mars   •  

    Great disclaimer on plastic bag recycling. I try every day to help others understand that although recycling is better than nothing, in no way it is THE answer to our sustainability issues. Beautiful bags!

  2. Inge   •  

    I'd love to see the placemat for your cat 🙂

  3. Amanda Chapman   •  

    Not the nicest looking thing… Lesson learned- plastic fusing is hard & time consuming!

  4. Amanda Chapman   •  

    Thanks, it's definitely tricky to explain when as a generation we have had it drilled in to us that "recycling is green" and you can be green just by refusing plastic bags, there's A LOT more to it. But every bit helps of course.

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