Eco-Friendly Recycled Bags (2024): Totes, Purses, Shopping Bags | WIRED

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Eco-Friendly Recycled Bags (2024): Totes, Purses, Shopping Bags | WIRED

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WIRED's gear team has tested dozens of bags meant to ease commutes and withstand wear and weather. Here, our favorite eco-friendly bags are as capable and durable, but made using recycled materials like plastic water bottles, old nylon, and even fishing nets retrieved from the ocean.

It's important to find ways to reuse what would otherwise pollute our oceans and sit in landfills forever. But first, ask yourself: Do you need a new bag? Buying sustainable items when you already have good ones at home doesn't help much. But if the bag you have now isn't working out, then you might get some peace of mind with our picks below that utilize recycled materials. Not every bag is made from 100 percent recycled materials, but every little bit counts.

Bags are often categorized by liters, which we explain more in a separate article. See the rest of our bag picks in our guides on the Best Backpacks, Best Totes and Purses, and Best Messenger and Sling Bags. And be sure to read our other sustainable roundups, like the Best Recycled and Upcycled Products, Best Recycled Clothing, and Best Reusable Products.

Updated January 2024: We added Verloop's Scrap Stuffed Tote, Lo & Sons' Nouvelle purse and Patchwork Tote, and Solo's Re:Fresh backpack to this guide. We also updated prices and links throughout.

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United By Blue's Carryall is a nice tote bag that easily converts to a backpack. Both the interior and exterior are made of 100 percent recycled polyester; the straps are 100 percent recycled nylon; and the padding is made of a combo of 60 percent recycled nylon and 40 percent recycled polyester. Even the zipper pulls are 100 percent recycled nylon paracord.

It's water-resistant and sufficiently padded to keep a 15-inch laptop safe from the elements and drops. There are useful organizational pouches inside the front pocket, as well as two water bottle pockets. If you're tired of carrying it on one shoulder, unzip the back pocket and pull out the comfy backpack straps. They clip on to sturdy D-rings at the base. As of publication, the manufacturer has had a warehouse fire, but stock should be back in supply in the next few weeks.

The Lo & Son's Nouvelle purse (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is made from recycled nylon and polyester, and uses nopal cactus in place of leather. The combination of shape, material, and pretty strap makes it work as both a dressed-up or dressed-down purse. I've used it nearly every day since September and feel classy and put together no matter what I'm wearing. I love the black exterior with gunmetal hardware, but there are several colors and combinations available.

It won't hold your laptop but it's the perfect size for essentials like your wallet, phone, and e-reader, plus accessories like lipstick and a hair clip. An interior pocket has three card slots and the external pocket fits my iPhone 11 and bulky keys.

★ More From Lo & Sons: We also like the Hanover 2 ($238), which saves 22 used plastic bottles from landfills, turning them into water-resistant polyester. The detachable insert makes it versatile, so you can organize yourself for work or remove it and replace it with clothes for the weekend or a diaper-changing station.

All Mafia bags are made from reused sails, and the company employs Californians to cut and manufacture them. This Deep Blue Bag was made in collaboration with industrial designer Yves Béhar and utilizes material from climbing ropes, seat belts, and old wet and dry suits. The front compartment is waterproof and meant to prevent wet towels and bathing suits from leaking through to the rest of your gadgets, in case you hit the beach right after work. A hidden side pocket can house a phone, keys, or wallet, and you can use the small loop at the bottom of the bag to hang it upside down to dry. There's also a drysuit sleeve to keep water bottles securely in place until you pull them out.

It's pricier than all the bags on this list and has gotten more expensive than when we first tried it. All profits from this bag go to the nonprofit Sustainable Surf and its Waste to Waves program, which focuses on recycling Styrofoam packaging. You can donate your old sails too.

If you need to spend as little as possible, Targus’ Zero Waste Backpack is a solid bag from a solid brand. It's made from 20 recycled water bottles and comes rolled up in a recycled plastic package. Unfold that plastic and place it in the laptop pocket—that gives the bag structure and provides a little more protection for your expensive tech. It also allows the bag to ship using as little packaging as possible. In addition to the main compartment, the bag has two pockets on the front and two water bottle pockets. There are also two compression straps to slim it out.

At CES 2024, the brand announced a new backpack in its EcoSmart collection. The Coastline is a bit more expensive than the Zero Waste, and is made from ocean-bound plastic. We'll try it soon.

The Troubadour Sling Compact is made from recycled polyester and plastic bottles. It's small but mighty, fitting a bulky wallet, phone, chapstick, and keys. If I switched to a slim card wallet instead, I could even carry around my Beats over-ear headphones.

It's broken up into two compartments, the larger main one and a smaller front pocket with a key clip and a small spot to hold something about the size of an AirPods case. The brand has a slightly larger version available, as well as a vegan leather one (both $95). All have a magnetic quick-release button if you can't slip it over your head (it shouldn't open until you're actually trying to).

★ More From Troubadour: The Orbis Collection is a fully circular line of bags. They're not just made from recycled materials, but they're meant to be recycled again and again. Although we haven't tried it, we've used a bunch of this brand's lineup now—including several backpacks and totes—and all are well made and sophisticated-looking. We're confident the line is worth buying if they're in your price range.

This is our favorite laptop tote, and its exterior is made of weatherproof recycled nylon. WIRED reviewer Jaina Grey says it distributes weight like magic and has pockets on top of pockets to keep you organized, including a slot for a 16-inch laptop. We like several Moment camera bags, include the very similar Everything Tote which does not use recycled materials.

★ Runner-Up Tote: Bellroy's Tokyo Tote ($129) is also one of our favorites thanks to its excellent organization—the entire interior perimeter is sectioned off into pockets to hold a 13-inch laptop, phone, wallet, cables, and a small notebook among other accessories. “Pop” pockets on either end open up to hold water bottles, a small umbrella, or even flats. The brand uses a few recycled materials, from plastic bottles to leftover nylon scraps from other Bellroy products.

Cuyana makes our favorite laptop purse. This one, while more understated and casual, is just as gorgeous. The fabric of this sling bag is made from 100 percent recycled plastic taken from landfills. It has a durable, canvas-like feel and can be machine-washed in a mesh bag (but air it dry!) so you can actually get real use out of it without worry.

A bottom insert keeps it structured, and this large size fits more than you'll need—I used it as my personal item on a vacation and stuffed it full with a book, a tablet, over-ear headphones, medications, and every little tchotchke I could find to bring back. If you want to use it for work, or just need more organization, it can be paired with Cuyana's tote insert.

★ More Sizes: We used the oversized bag, but there are medium and small versions too. They all come in black or in a stunning cappuccino body with a black strap combo that I've been eyeing.

Timbuk2's Spark Mini, especially in its Eco Nautical Pop colorway, looks like it stepped right out of a late ’80s, early ’90s mood board. It's a reminder that backpacks can be fun, but still functional, and it's made from 100 percent recycled nylon and polyester.

Despite being small, the main compartment fits my 13-inch MacBook Pro. A smaller pocket is best for tablets or Kindles. The faux-fur-lined front pocket has ample room for a phone and wallet, plus there's a cord for your keys. You can unclip the straps and stow them in the back magnetic closure pocket and hold it like a tote. The Spark comes in an even smaller version too.

Lojel's Niru line of bags, including this City Sling, is made from 100 percent recycled nylon with full-grain leather accents. The packaging is compostable too. The sling is nearly weightless, and snaps on the corners can flatten it out or expand it as needed. I could fit both my large wallet and Beats in this one, unlike with the smaller Troubadour above. The strap has a slinky feel that I like.

The main compartment has three smaller pockets on the inside and a key holder strap. There's a smaller zip pocket on the back, too, that fits an iPhone with room to spare.

★ More From Lojel: I also tried the 3-Way Tote ($55), Daypack ($125), and Daypack Mini ($100). They're all made of the same recycled materials. The backpacks only have a side entry to the main compartment, rather than a zipper at the top with slip pockets facing the side too. It isn't my favorite design feature, but I got used to it. Like the sling, they have snaps on all four corners so you can expand or compress them.

I want everything in mini size, please.

Everything Verloop sells is beyond adorable, including this tiny bag made from deadstock yarn. If you don't need to hold too many things, it makes any outfit better. We recommend the brand's slippers in our recycled clothing guide, too.

★ Another Mini From Verloop: Verloop already uses deadstock yarn, and with the brand's Scrap Stuffed Tote ($68), it goes a step further. This bag is a thin nylon shell filled with scrap yarn from the brand's factory, so it further reduces waste. It's vibrant and fun, and fits essentials. There's a matching pouch too.

We love Baggu's standard reusable bags for shopping trips, and they're made with 40 percent recycled nylon. Each bag can hold up to 50 pounds and replaces two to three plastic grocery bags. They're also cute, available in several colors and patterns, and fold down into little squares so you can keep a few in your car. You can sometimes find them at Urban Outfitters too.

Freitag's F640 has long been one of our favorites. All of its bags are made using old truck tarps, but this one includes recycled plastic bottles to make the bag softer and lighter. Being made of heavy-duty tarp means the bag can take some wear, so if the price scares you, know you probably won't need a new one for a while, if ever. There's a fantastic number of color combinations to choose from too.

You should know, however, that truck tarps have a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) coating, and reusing them doesn't strip the coating away. There's a reason most companies proudly advertise "PVC-free" these days—the material is environmentally damaging and is not safe for children. It's why Freitag says “don't chew, don't suck, don't eat” and specifies that the bag is unsuitable for children under the age of three.

Eco-Friendly Recycled Bags (2024): Totes, Purses, Shopping Bags | WIRED

Paper Recycling Bags Longchamp's designer bags don't look gaudy or ostentatious, and if you've spent any time on a college campus or around fancy buisness people you may have noticed these on many an arm. This one is made from recycled polyamide canvas, derived from fishing nets and old carpets. It's pretty but durable, and while it doesn't have a laptop pocket, it can hold one comfortably. If you're bringing it as a backup bag on a trip, it folds down to a teeny little rectangle (plus the straps).