If we were to guess, you are here because you’re wondering - how can plastic and a sustainable brand go together?! For those new to Tortoise (hello!), we are a sustainable clothing brand that creates affordable and functional wardrobe basics. We design them to fit right with any body shape and size, and also fit snugly into a circular system that creates zero waste - win-win for you and the Earth!
Creating sustainable clothing is something we’re really proud of, but we’re not quite at the finish line yet. Our packaging, which we lovingly named the Tortoise Totepack, is a 100% RPET multi-functional tote that doubles as parcel mailers, and is durable enough to be reused again and again.
It is made of plastic — you read that right — but a really special kind of plastic that convinced us it is what we need to build a circular system that works - and for a long time. How so? First let us tell you about…
The misunderstood life of climate change’s poster child - plastic
Plastics have gained a bad rep over the years for their pollutive effects, but can we really pile all the blame on just plastic alone?
It is true that our overwhelming use of plastics has had an extremely detrimental impact on our environment. According to National Geographic, half of the plastics manufactured were actually produced in the past 15 years, reflecting the exponential increase of humankind’s dependence on plastics. Millions of animals have died every year attributing to plastic pollution, and nearly 700 species have been affected by plastics.
However, here’s our thoughts on this: it is not plastic alone that is to blame, but the ways we use them.
The throwaway culture of our times means that plastic is often single-use. About 380 million metric tons of plastic are being produced yearly, and half of them are destined for a single-use product. These plastics are here to stay for a long, long time, and have on countless occasions, caused suffocation, starvation and drowning of marine animals.
On the flip side, we saw the longevity of plastic as a potential strength, and the limited, often one-time use of plastics just seems like a great waste of endless (quite literally) potential. Determined to find the right packaging for our products and keep plastics out of the oceans and landfills, we set out to explore the world of plastics.
Why did we choose RPET?
Plastic will outlive you and your great-great-great grandchildren, so that’s the worst right? Well, only partially true. We’ve done our homework (occasionally munching on a carrot stick), studying all forms of alternatives out there.
Findings from an NTU study found that polypropylene non-woven plastic bags are the most eco-friendly option in Singapore. Other alternatives, such as single-use biodegradable plastics and cotton woven bags have 16 and 17 times respectively the global warming potential of reusable plastic bags!
But there’s a caveat: you have to use each reusable plastic bag at least 50 times, highlighting the importance of intention and commitment. Thus at Tortoise, we designed our Tortoise Totepack to do exactly that, using recycled PET (RPET) which is typically made from recycled plastic bottles. It is fully post-consumer recyclable, meaning that it is infinitely recyclable.
Polypropylene non-woven mentioned in the NTU study is a close alternative to RPET, which is also post-consumer recyclable, and nevertheless, something that is still on our radar. As a rather young brand, we are starting with baby steps by first making our packaging out of already-recycled PET to minimise additional resource use.
But what about “eco-friendlier” plastics like biodegradable plastics and bioplastics?
While considering other materials, those made for single use were definitely out of the question, even if they boast ‘biodegradable’ or ‘industrial compostable’ labels. Made of petrochemicals like other plastics but designed to break down quicker, experts shared that “biodegradable plastic wastes make a difference to the environment only when they are buried in landfills”, where they degrade faster than a regular polyethylene plastic bag.
In the context of Singapore’s incineration waste management system, any form of disposed plastic gets incinerated anyway, so being biodegradable does not matter much at all. The experts also added that some biodegradable plastics even require more resources to produce!
What about bioplastics, which are made of plant-based materials? They aren’t necessarily the most eco-friendly, and the recycling system for bioplastics just seems way too complex and premature in Singapore for now.
Nothing lasts forever…unless we build a system for it
We designed our Tortoise Totepack to be multifunctional and durable. It can be an everyday companion for errands, which is just perfect for what we set out to achieve: continuous circulation. The team at Tortoise also uses it among ourselves, and don’t mind us, we think it looks great on anyone, heh.
The Tortoise Totepack is also an important part of our Carrot Credits Recycling System, where customers can return Tortoise products at their end of life in these TotePacks, and be rewarded Carrot Credits for their next purchase. What happens to these old Tortoise products that have served their purpose? Yes, we upcycle them!
We have poured our hearts into building a circular system that is seamless for anyone who wants to be a part of it, and we continue to strive to make it better. We are a proudly sustainable clothing brand that doesn’t just stop at creating eco-friendly products, but one that paves the path towards a happier planet with happier people!