This initiative, which came around in 2019, is the work of 3 young people from the north of France, an engineer for a well-known chain of sports articles, a business student and a designer. In his line of work, the engineer has seen many kayaks and inflatable boats discarded after remaining unsold as a result of being defective. France does not have recycling loops for sports and outdoor products. The materials from those products which have become waste are technical, durable, light, water-resistant and abrasion-resistant, all of which are ideal properties for a bag.
Giving a second life to outdoor and sports equipment
This was all it took for Benoît, Maxime and Mattias, all driven by the same spirit of respect for the environment, to embark on the adventure and give life to their idea: to recover end-of-life kayaks and recycle them into backpacks, computer bags or high-quality accessories.
"With this project, we want to show that waste is not waste, it's just a way of looking at things differently" explained Maxime Labat, one of the creators. "La Virgule is not an end point for the life of products. It is a comma and we write the second part of the story”.
Preserving the products’ technical properties and making the world of sport circular
First, they entered into a partnership with Decathlon to recover used kayaks. Then, together, they drew, designed, sewed and assembled what would be their first creation, a backpack of which 95% of the material used was the polyester and PVC from end-of-life inflatable kayaks. The first in a long series.
The range of basic raw materials was soon expanded and many other items of used outdoor equipment would be recovered and then cut, washed and sorted to be used to create more and more varied models. End-of-life seat belts would also be added to the equation following a collaboration with Indra Automobile Recycling, the leading player in automotive recycling in France.
The spearhead of the collection, the Duffel Bag, a durable and comfortable 35-litre weekend bag, is upcycled from semi-rigid boat canvas, climbing crash pads, tent canvas and seat belts that are converted into shoulder straps.
Technical and stylish upcycled luggage
Each kayak delivers around 15 kg of re-used material that will be used to make 3 backpacks and 4 or 5 computer cases.
While 1,000 seatbelts have already been collected from Indra, seven tonnes of used kayaks, tents and other equipment have been recycled into luggage. Manufactured in Calais and Portugal, these backpacks, made from 100% recycled materials have a carbon footprint divided by five, i.e. 5 kg of CO2 instead of 25 kg for a classic model.