Recycling Sails with Sea Bags

At Load of Rubbish, we collect people’s junk every day. Items folks no longer want or have need of. Our aim is to keep as much of that out of the landfill as we can, by donating reusable things to thrift stores and recycling salvageable items which still hold value in its raw materials. And we love to hear about other companies who strive to do likewise. We found a company that does just that—introducing Sea Bags.

Sail Away with Sea Bags

Sea Bags hails from Portland, Maine. As you can see from the map above, you can find them on Custom House Wharf overhanging Casco Bay in the Gulf of Maine. They are right on the water on a working wharf. The Atlantic Ocean is not only in their neighbourhood, but also the source of their materials; from the sailboats that ply its waters, anyway. You see Sea Bags handcrafts bags from recycled sails.

The story starts with Hannah Kubiak. In 1999, she began sewing bags out of recycled sails, while living aboard her father’s sailboat. By 2006, Beth Shissler had joined her and together they grew the company from three employees to upwards of 150. While Kubiak has moved on and Don Oakes stepped in as CEO, the company’s mandate remains the same—sustainability and recycling.

“At Sea Bags, “recycled” and “sustainable” are not afterthoughts. They are the cornerstones of our brand. We approach the concept of sustainability from an environmental and social point of view. We believe in sustaining our community through job creation. We believe in sustaining the oceans and waters that we call our playground. We take these responsibilities very seriously.”

Today, the business continues to thrive along the waterfront and beyond. With continued expansion, including several new stores this year, the environmentally conscious company now numbers 24 stores up and down the American coast, including their flagship location in the Old Port area. Apt, as that is where they continue to get their recycled materials from.

Recycling Sails One Sail at a Time

Those recycling efforts really add up. Since its inception, Sea Bags has helped to keep over 700 tons of waste out of landfills. That’s a LOT of sails! Plus, they use eco-friendly ink and do their part to find innovative ways to reduce their waste. That is a boon not only for Sea Bags, but the planet too. Less waste created in Maine, means less garbage for the Earth as a whole.

So, how do they do it? Each sail is collected, stripped, and cut, before the design team steps in. They look at grommet holes, stitching details, rust smudges, and other telltale features that hold the history of the sail. Those are part of the sail, and Sea Bags tries to retain the essence of where each sail has been and what it has experienced. Artists then hand-stitch the bags. Even the hemp rope handles are hand-stitched! There is plenty of love and memories in each bag, as you can imagine.

The Octopus tote not only features a mysterious creature from the deep, but a handwritten note inside from Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species

Not interested in octopuses? There are plenty of designs to choose from. In fact, you can customize your own, if you so choose. They are all made from recycled sails regardless of the design. Heck, you can even donate your own old sails to the cause, if you have old sails taking up space in your home. Know that it will be turned into something new, whether that is a duffel, toiletry bag, tote, wristlet, bucket bag, or a bag to carry your favourite bottle of wine.

Now how is that for a whale of a tale of an environmentally conscious company doing its part to reduce waste in a world of fast-fashion. If that isn’t enough, Sea Bags also sponsors a women’s sailing team and promotes ocean health every step of the way. The sails they collect have already lived a life on the sea and with the help of their many artisans now get to keep on living in the form of a unique Sea Bag creation. We like the cut of their jib.