Been London is on track to create what may possibly be the world’s most sustainable leather bag. The British brand is in the process of developing a home compostable handbag made with Treekind “leaf leather,” produced by London-based bio-textile startup Biophilica.
Biophilica sources urban plant waste like leaves and twigs from London Parks to create the plastic-free, recyclable leather alternative. Been London notes that although other biodegradable, vegan, and low carbon materials are innovative and beneficial when compared to virgin leather, there is still a microplastics problem due to the PU or polyester backing often found with other alternatives. The brand finds this lingering problem with sustainable materials to have a clear distinction between biodegradable and compostable. “Whilst biodegradable refers to any materials that can break down in the environment, compostable goods are specifically organic matter – they have so many more benefits, including fertilizing and improving soil health,” the brand says on its site.
This new Earth-friendly bag exploration is made possible through a grant from the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s Green New Deal Fund and ReLondon, a partnership between the mayor and the London boroughs to improve waste and resource management creating a path to transform the city into a low-carbon circular economy. Been London is only 1 of the 33 business to receive the funding. This is due in part to the brand’s continued commitment to zero-waste, sustainable design – an approach it was founded on by former BBC journalist Genia Mineeva.
“I remember thinking, I’m here writing and reporting about people doing such cool things out there in the field – working with refugees, for example, the big change-makers of the world – and I just thought, I want to have an impact rather than just tell stories of impact,” said Minneva in an August 2021 Vogue UK interview .
Since 2018, Mineeva has worked with one of the last bagmakers in East London using non-traditional, certified materials such as tannery off-cut leather, discarded clothes, plastic bottles, and even apple skins. Been London has a large network of partners globally-known in the industry and familiar names in the alternative material space. Regenerated nylon is produced from fishing nets and carpet waste by ECONYL. Piñatex creator Ananas Anam provides a plant-based, PETA-certified vegan leather. The world’s largest zipper manufacturer YKK also is the maker of NATULON, eco-friendly zips made from single-use plastic bottles. Additionally, used corporate uniforms are collected from KLM airlines and IKEA in the Netherlands to produce a recycled felt used as protective and structural material in Been London bags.
In other material news, Pangaia released sunglasses that transform CO2 into lenses.