For business owner Julie Foster the question is never paper or plastic, for her, the answer is always plastic. Foster, owns a boutique business called Bag to Bags. The business recycles plastic bags and various fabrics and reconstruct them into custom made bags of different shapes and sizes.
Using a simple method of heating plastic bags to the point of fusion, Foster crafts unique carrying cases.
“I’ve made coin-purses to large totes,” Foster said.
Up late at night a few weeks before Christmas in 2008, she happened upon YouTube. There she found a college professor talking about recycling plastic bags. According to him, you could use an iron and fuse plastic bags together to make roofing shingles. “
I was hooked from there,” Foster said.
With over 30 years of sewing, alteration and quilting experience she quickly went to work and started making fabric out of used plastic bags. Within weeks she had quite a few bags made, just in time for Christmas gifts.
Foster’s love of her craft is evident as she displayed bags on the floor, bags on the shelves, bags in a suitcase, bags with logos from Target and Starbucks, bags made from nutrition labels and bags from produce-netting. She has transformed her basement into a custom fabric shop, with several sewing machines, a heat press, thread racks and a 39-inch commercial cutter she got off of Craigslist.
To date she has retailed her bags through word-of-mouth by networking with friends, family and church organizations. “I’m able to make money out of garbage, literally,” she said.
A website is in the making and should be posted within a few months.
Foster says anyone can make fabric out of bags, there are lots of people doing it and resources online. Anyone that wants to create a bag out of plastic fabric needs a sewing machine, an iron, some Teflon sheeting, some layout experience and a little creativity. Fusing four to six layers at a time make a very strong and durable fabric. There is no smell during the process and it’s sturdy enough to sew-in zippers and handles.
Foster has put together a do-it-yourself kit with the fabric already cut, fused and ready to sew – but hasn’t marketed them yet.
Every bag is an original.
“I cannot create exact reproductions,” she said. Because plastic is malleable when hot, it tends to shift and forms quickly to whatever surface it’s on. And because plastics are always different thicknesses or made from different compounds, “no two are ever alike.”
Her husband, Mike Foster said, “She’s saving the world one bag at a time,” and that might not be a bad idea.
According to Greenpeace.org, “Around 100 million tons of plastic are produced each year and about 10 percent ends up in the sea.” The polymers that make up plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to breakdown, but only into ever increasingly smaller particles.
The eastern and western garbage patches located in the Pacific Ocean combined are estimated to be twice the size of the continental U.S., where the ratio of plastic to plankton is estimated to be six-to-one, threatening marine life, fishing and tourism.
Foster is very busy, not only with her bag business, but her alteration business as well. She will be at this year’s Green Living Day at the Farmer’s Market in Maple Valley June 26 at Rock Creek Elementary.
For more information about Bag to Bags contact Foster at email@example.com. More information about the Farmer’s Market is at the website.