Swiss bag maker Freitag wants to ensure that its bags made from upcycled truck tarps are not only recycled in the future, but also remain endlessly recyclable. To achieve this, the company has teamed up with various industry partners to develop a completely recyclable truck tarp.
“Today, we are thinking primarily about how we can help the transport industry with a circular material, which will enable us to act in endless cycles," explains co-founder Daniel Freitag in a press release. Freitag has already achieved this pioneering feat in textiles with its 100 percent compostable clothing line called Fabric, which the brand developed itself from scratch; now the bags are to follow suit.
Even though the truck tarps currently have a longer life because they are upcycled into bags, this life will also end at some point and then they will be incinerated. “In Zurich, at least a little heating is generated for our headquarter. But it would be much better if we could give the used truck tarps not only a second life, but an eternal one,” says co-founder Markus Freitag.
A little over a year ago, the bag maker decided to initiate the development of a new type of recyclable tarpaulin, which needs to be just as robust, durable, water-repellent and practical as the existing PVC one. Instead of being thrown away, the new tarp will end up in the biological or technical cycle. This means that it will one day biologically decompose or can be broken down into technical materials that can then be used to make new tarpaulins or other products.
“It soon became clear that a new, circular tarpaulin would be constructed in a similar way to the existing one and would consist of a robust fabric and a soft, water- and dirt-repellent coating made of a synthetic or bio-based plastic. How these two main components can then - each separately or both together - be broken down back into their basic materials and reused or composted is the big question, to which the collective has already found some partial answers in the form of possible materials and various compounds,” says Freitag, summarising the efforts so far.
To ensure that all manufacturing steps and chemical components can really be described as recyclable, they are evaluated by innovation partner EPEA - part of Drees & Sommer - according to the Cradle to Cradle methodology in terms of comprehensive material health for people and the environment, technical recyclability and the implementation of a take back system.
The team has the first material prototypes at hand - compounds of different fabrics and coating materials that have been a positive surprise in the testing phase so far. “I am particularly pleased that the biologically based coating material even performs better than classic plastics in practical stress tests. We definitely want to continue along this path, even if it requires a lot more development work,” explains Bigna Salzmann, circular technologist at Freitag.
Freitag is convinced that a circular truck tarpaulin will become a transit route reality in the foreseeable future and is doing everything in its power to ensure that a first tarp prototype can be mounted on a truck before the end of 2022. However, it is difficult to predict when the circular tarp will then go into commercial production and the truck tarp cycle can be closed.