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We’re Ditching Plastic for Paper

By Outerknown Journey


Plastic never goes away — even when you toss it in the recycling bin, it could end up as litter on the other side of the world. 8 million metric tons enter the ocean every year. And if you’ve traveled to a developing part of the world and seen rivers clogged and beaches blanketed in plastic washed ashore from elsewhere, you’re deeply aware of this issue. Our recycling system for plastic is broken, and that’s why we’re taking a giant leap toward eliminating plastic bags from our global supply network. This has been one of our top priorities since the very beginning, so our partnership with Vela™ marks a huge step forward for us as a brand.

“Partnering with Vela™ on the first ever FSC® certified tissue bag for garments is another innovative win for both Outerknown and the ocean. Outerknown is deeply committed to eliminating the use of virgin plastic and ensuring we keep it out of our oceans.” – Kelly Slater, Co-Founder & 11x World Champion Surfer

Let’s Make Polybags a Thing of the Past
Plastic “polybags” are traditionally used across the fashion industry to transport products between factories and warehouses, the most common culprit being a #4 low-density, polyethylene, virgin plastic film bag. They might keep a product safe momentarily, but 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. 

“Outerknown is committed to becoming a fully circular brand by 2030, which includes the advancement of circular packaging solutions. 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 fibers and increase our use of recycled content across our packaging. The vast majority of our packaging is already made from at least 90% recycled paper, and while these are steps in the right direction, we recognize we have more work to do!” – Megan Stoneburner, Director of Sustainability & Sourcing

Paper Is a Natural Next Step
After relentlessly exploring alternatives, we’ve finally found a sustainable and scalable solution that we’re proud to pioneer this fall! We’ve already begun working with our factories to one-by-one transition to Vela™ paper bags, which are FSC® certified, carbon neutral, and more widely recyclable than plastic. By next fall, 100% of our suppliers will transition to paper bags, which we hope will make it easier for other brands to make the switch too. Ditching plastic bags is not the end-all solution, but coupled with our packaging (made from 90% recycled paper) and hangtags (made from 100% PCW paper) we’re making some measurable progress toward circularity. 

No Poly. No Problem.™
Thankfully, we’re not on this journey alone. We’ve joined Prana’s Responsible Packaging Movement to drive greater change alongside a collective of leading brands that are also committed to eliminating single-use plastic from their packaging. Our approaches are all different, but we share a common goal: to protect this planet and make polybags a thing of the past.


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