RIKR is a recycled plastic backpack that can withstand Arctic conditions


British start-up Groundtruth has used 120 plastic bottles to create one of its RIKR backpacks, which is designed to survive in harsh conditions like saltwater, blizzards and penguin poo.

The all-black bag holds 24 litres and is designed to endure extreme weather conditions thanks to a novel, high-performance fabric called GT-RK-001 that is made from recycled PET, rendering its shell lightweight and durable at the same time.

Robert Swan trailed Groundtruth's RIKR backpack during an Arctic expedition
Explorer Robert Swan trailed the RIKR backpack during an Arctic expedition

In fact RIKR, which recently won the public vote in the wearable design category of this year’s Dezeen Awards, was first tested by British explorer Robert Swan, during expeditions to both the North and South Pole.

“Rob has worked his entire life on preserving Antarctica and fighting the ongoing effects of climate change,” explained Sophia Scott, who founded Groundtruth alongside her sisters Nina and Georgia.

“We spent two weeks with Rob in Antarctica, sailing around the coastline with daily expeditions to the mainland and continuously putting our prototypes through rigorous tests,” she added.

“Our backpacks survived zodiac excursions [on inflatable rafts], saltwater, freezing blizzards and penguin poo. Through these tests, we enhanced the functionality, refined the design and helped advance our ongoing material developments.”

Groundtruth's recycled plastic backpack can withstand Arctic conditions
The bag is entirely black and can hold 24 litres

Groundtruth developed the GT-RK-001 textile over the course of 18 months, with the aim of creating something similar to VX21.

This is a three-layered waterproof fabric, that was originally made for the sails of racing boats and has a high tensile strength and abrasion resistance despite being incredibly thin.

But while VX21 is generally made from virgin PET, nylon and polyester, Groundtruth’s version is entirely rendered from plastic waste, sourced from a recycling plant in Jakarta, Indonesia, only 20 minutes down the road from where the backpacks are ultimately manufactured.

RIKR is a recycled plastic backpack by Groundtruth that can withstand Arctic conditions
Groundtruth’s design features a shell made of GT-RK-001

“We went through many sampling stages to achieve our final batch,” Nina Scott told Dezeen.

“For strength optimisation, we combined a ballistic weave – a technique of twisting the yarn as it is woven – with a ‘tripstop’ structure.”

GT-RK-001 is a fabric made of recycled plastic used by Groundtruth in its backpacks
GT-RK-001 is made of recycled PET and features a triangular ripstop or “tripstop” weave

Tripstop is Groundtruth’s triangular reinterpretation of a ripstop weave, which generally features a chequered pattern of reinforcement yarns integrated into a fabric to prevent it from tearing or ripping.

Almost every other element of the bag is also made from recycled PET, including the padding and air mesh of the shoulder straps, the fleece lining of the laptop compartment and the zippers.

Groundtruth's recycled plastic backpack can withstand Arctic conditions
The RIKR range also includes laptop bags

However, to guarantee a waterproof finish, the bag is currently still covered in a coating made of virgin thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU).

“We are working with a bio-coatings company for our next range, to be launched in autumn 2021,” said Georgina Scott. “It’s vital that bio-coatings are made durable enough to give the waterproofing that we all need.”

RIKR is a recycled plastic backpack by Groundtruth that can withstand Arctic conditions
The RIKR tote is made from the same recycled PET textile

The RIKR range also includes a tote, laptop and camera bags as well as a cardholder, which is made from offcuts that were created in the process of producing the other products and would otherwise have gone to waste.

The Scott sisters’ ultimate aim is to create a more sustainable way for outdoor wear to achieve its high standards of performance and durability.

“Petroleum-based materials are the most common types within the performance market as they are accessible, affordable and durable,” explained Georgia Scott.

“The advancement of textiles plays a key part in cleaning up this industry and through our trial and testing, we have proven that products created from recycled materials can perform just as well as virgin materials,” she continued.

“The cost is higher, both for us as the producers and therefore also for the customer but the more other companies follow suit, the less expensive these recycled materials will be.”

RIKR is a recycled plastic backpack by Groundtruth that can withstand Arctic conditions
The laptop bags come in three different sizes

Earlier this year, American accessories brand Rothy’s released a series of bags made of recycled plastic sourced from beaches and waterways, rather than using plastic that is already within the recycling chain.

The material has also proven popular in footwear design, with Everlane using it to form the laces of its carbon-neutral Tread trainers while Belgian brand Norm spun it into a yarn and used it to 3D knit the upper of its 1L11 shoe.

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