Making Something Useful Out of Something Useless

Polyarus

3. Good Health and Well-Being 12. Responsible Consumption and Production

Overview

Polyarus operates in the field of fashion, one of the most polluting industries in the world. However, the impact of this company is exactly the opposite. Creating bags and other accessories out of wasted tires and advertising banners and promoting recycling, Polyarus contributes to reducing negative environmental effects caused by landfills and waste incineration. “To make something useful out something useless” is the mission of the company, according to its founder.

Authors

Anna Guliaeva

Anna Guliaeva

Yana Kolupaeva

Yana Kolupaeva

Emil Gilmiyarov

Emil Gilmiyarov

Elizaveta Fedorova

Elizaveta Fedorova

School

National Research University Higher School of Economics

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Professor

Ekaterina Zagorodnova

Ekaterina Zagorodnova

Innovation

Polyarus is a Russian company that uses wasted tires, advertising banners, and seat belts to make bags, backpacks and similar products. The company does not use exclusive technologies and sophisticated machinery, the process behind the idea is quite simple but the results are great.

Alexandra Polyarus, the founder of the company, creates all designs herself; thus, each produced piece is unique and hand-crafted. The work starts by gathering the materials: for example, wasted tires come from automotive repair shops whose owners are happy to get rid of something they cannot use. So, instead of making its way right up to the landfill and contributing to environmental pollution, wasted tires end up being recycled. Pretty much the same happens with used advertising banners and seat belts. After the raw materials get cleaned up from all layers of dirt and fuel oil, Alexandra and the members of her team start cutting and sewing. This is the moment when the magic happens: something that once was just trash gets a second life as a stylish accessory.

Making Something Useful Out of Something Useless

Inspiration

Alexandra got the business idea in 2014 on a trip to Paris. She saw bags made from recycled materials for the first time and became interested in environmentally friendly production. It was a turning point when Alexandra finally realized what she wanted to do for a living, quit her previous job and began to create.

According to the founder's story, the first Polyarus bags were rather sloppily made because of the lack of experience. A lot of effort was put to get the business up and running, but eventually, Alexandra gained connections with designers and suppliers of materials.

The main goal of Polyarus is to contribute to the culture of conscious consumption and to turn recycling into a fashion trend. “For my entire life, I have dreamed of creating a noble business. I wanted to make money while doing something right, honest and clean,” says Alexandra.

Overall impact

The overall impact of Polyarus is the reduction of the volume of waste in Russia. The company uses a principle of circular economy in the production and satisfies UN sustainable development goals, such as responsible consumption and production, and good health and well-being.

The use of rubber as the main material for bags is a reasonable move. Not only does it exceed leather in terms of quality and characteristics (for instance, durability and water resistance), but it also helps to avoid animal cruelty. Promotion of environmentally friendly trends in the fashion industry and changing people’s attitudes towards such things as recycling and sustainable consumption is another mission of the company.

“It was hard at the beginning but from about mid-2018 everything started to change. Fashion bloggers started to write about eco-friendly products and the government started to take steps to address the problems connected with pollution,” says Alexandra. Polyarus is one of the companies which keep spreading these trends in Russia. The company shows people that products made of recycled materials can be very fashionable and aesthetically pleasing.

Business benefit

Today, people have become more concerned about environmental problems, which is why Polyarus has grown in popularity and considerably increased its sales over the last two years. These days many big corporations position themselves as eco-friendly companies and try to make their own contribution, so the tendency towards responsible production seems to be consistent. Polyarus has already had some collaborations with such companies and brands. “The most significant experience so far was a collaboration with Adidas in August 2018. They ordered a thousand shoppers from advertising banners left after the FIFA World Cup and it was kind of a game-changer for Polyarus,” says the founder.

Despite being hand-made, the products are not expensive thanks to Alexandra’s friendly relationships with suppliers, who provide raw materials for free. So, almost anyone can afford a Polyarus bag. The aim of the company is to minimize prices in order to increase sales and, of course, to recycle more.

Social and environmental benefit

One of the hardest challenges on the way to making the world a better, safer place is the transition to sustainable production and consumption. Currently, only 13% of wasted tires are being recycled in Russia, others either being sent to the landfill or burnt. In both cases, a mix of toxic substances ends up released into the air and soil, which leads to a huge negative impact on health and the environment alike.

According to Alexandra, Polyarus has recycled about 1 ton of tires and 2000 square meters of advertising banners to create their bags in 2019. This sets an excellent example of how even a small business can make a tangible contribution to reducing global pollution.

Another mission of Polyarus as a company is the popularization of recycling and sustainable consumption. The brand always supports projects and events that help to achieve this goal and share sustainable values with people. Next year Alexandra wants to open an offline market space that would also provide a platform for other eco-friendly brands. However, it is not going to be just a shop. It is meant to become a place where people can also learn more about global pollution and actions they can take here and now to decelerate it. Polyarus believes that it could become a real eye-opener and change people’s attitudes towards recycling. Actually, the company has a lot of plans for the future, and this is the future the world should welcome.

Interview

Alexandra Polyarus, Founder & Director

Photo of interviewee

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Polyarus

Polyarus

Saint-Petersburg, RU

Business Website: https://vk.com/polyarus_bags

Year Founded: 2014

Number of Employees: 2 to 10

Polyarus produces unique bags and backpacks, using wasted tires, advertising banners, and seat belts. This Russian brand is a perfect option for people who want to purchase environmentally friendly and stylish accessories.