Credit: Plum Ethical

Biker-chic rubber bags are the perfect rain-proof accessory for fall in Vancouver

What are your primary considerations when buying a new purse or bag? Fashion? Durability? Price?… Sustainability? When searching for a unique item that you’ll use every day, the options can be daunting.

Consider one of the alternatives to leather or synthetic—the recycled/reclaimed rubber bag. Rubber bags look good in a hip, fashion-forward kind of way, and the rubber can be formed to almost any shape or size imaginable. I love that they have a biker appeal, but can be eclectically paired with anything from vintage finds to haute couture.

Rubber bags—at least those composed of tire products—are limited by colour, of course, but they are available in such a wide variety of designs that it shouldn’t be a problem finding one you love.

They’re waterproof, making them perfect for Vancouverites, and easy to keep clean. And they can take a lot of wear and tear yet still maintain their shape over time. Animals are not harmed in the production of rubber bags either, making them an excellent choice for vegans and anyone else who chooses not to purchase leather goods.

Rubber bags are typically stitched together and accessorized with metal clips, rings, and/or buckles.

Apaisada Messenger Bag

The "Apaisada Messenger Bag”

from Plum Ethical.

Not every rubber bag is the same, however, in terms of where the rubber was sourced or how it was processed before being turned into a funky accessory. And this—the origin—is key!

A rubber purse, backpack or messenger bag is typically made in one of two ways:

1) It is constructed from a sheet of processed, recycled tire rubber; or

2) it is constructed from reclaimed rubber inner tubes.

To create a sheet of recycled rubber, an excessive amount of energy goes into collecting, transporting and re-melting the tires. During the process, toxins are released into the air. With all the energy, resources and hazards implicit in its production, this type of rubber is arguably not worth the hassle.

Twilight hour Products

Granville Online editor

Hilary Henegar just loves

this one from fellow Cascadian

Twilight Hour Products out

of Eugene, Oregon.

Some might say that making a sheet of rubber is better than throwing used tires in landfills. But full rubber tires can be recycled in other, much better ways—without having to be broken down or melted. Old tires can be used as garden retaining walls, children’s swings and planters. You can even put them together to form an outdoor compost bin. Check out www.tirecrafting.com for more ideas.

Creating bags from inner tubes is, in my humble opinion, the better of the two options. Not only do the bags have a fabulous texture—with some retaining the original printing from initial manufacturing—they are also beautiful in their imperfections, with ridges, grooves and striations. No two bags will ever be the same, guaranteeing a one-of-a-kind, ethical product.

Additionally, the inner tubes need only to be collected, cleaned and then formed into the finished product, requiring no further processing or melting.

Rubber bags are available online at places like EnglishRetreads.com, PlumEthical.com, or check the Etsy online store.

Pictured top: Neumatica’s “Carteron Large Tote Bag” from Plum Ethical.