Interview with Matthias Paisdzior, GOT BAG Head of North America
GOT BAG makes rolltop backpacks from recycled plastic. According to the National Ocean Service, it’s estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic waste in the ocean enter the ocean annually. Plastic waste does not decompose and wrecks havoc on marine life. GOT BAG is trying to help tackle this huge problem through its rolltop backpack, which is made from recycled ocean plastic waste. I had the opportunity to chat with Matthias Paisdzior, GOT BAG’s Head of North America, regarding GOT BAG’s mission and generally GOT BAG’s ocean clean-up initiative in Indonesia.
GOT BAG was also very kind to provide an exclusive discount for my readers which you can find at bottom of this page.
Please let my readers know where and when GOT BAG was founded and where your operations are located.
GOT BAG is a German start-up that has developed and launched the world’s first backpack made of ocean plastic. Following his passion for water sports, GOT BAG founder Benjamin Mandos had the business idea to collect and recycle plastic waste from the Southeast Asian ocean to manufacture backpacks and bags. Since then, he and his team are dedicated to making the ocean a little cleaner. For every travel companion sold, a step forward is made to sensitize people to a more conscious approach to plastic. Currently 50 employees are part of the GOT BAG team at the headquarters in Mainz. A second location is currently being set up in Portland, OR on the west coast in the USA
What is GOT BAGS’ mission? What products do you currently offer?
Our mission is to create a real impact. The aim is to recover the oceans of a significant amount of waste for a plastic-free future for the seas. But we do not only want to recover the plastic when it already ends up in the oceans, we start where the problem occurs and where it is the biggest . That is why we also organize training sessions on waste separation for the local community on Java, to create a collective awareness about plastic pollution.
GOT BAG products
By using recycled PET to produce yarn, GOT BAG has made the commitment to utilize a new eco-friendly alternative to conventional plastic. One metric ton of recycled PET saves 3.8 barrels of oil, 3,750 lb of water, and reduces the CO2 emission by 306,000 lb compared to the industry standard. So far, more than 100 tons of ocean plastic have been recycled to create GOT BAG products.
The product range consists of different backpacks for travelling as well as smaller bags, all in a classic black design. Besides that we offer travel accessories and other gadgets like wallets and laptop sleeves. All of our products are made of ocean plastic. With every purchase of our products that are not made of ocean plastic (like our stainless steel thermos bottle), we collect up to 11 pounds of ocean plastic and support our fishermen in Indonesia with donations. Feel free to get a better overview of our product range here.
We hear all the time that oceans are polluted but from your experience how serious is this problem?
It is very serious! Our planet is drowning in plastic pollution. 91% of the worldwide plastic waste is not being recycled and a staggering 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. That’s about 17.6 billion pounds — or the equivalent of nearly 57,000 blue whales — every single year!
A lot of people do not know that actually 70 % of the oxygen we breathe is produced by marine flora, this is more than by trees! Moreover, every year, more than 11 million tons of plastic waste ends up in our oceans and right now, around 75% of the garbage in our oceans is plastic waste so that in 2050, every sea bird will have plastic parts in its stomach which causes a serious threat for marine life!
Tell us a bit about your clean up Indonesia program?
We want to have full control over every single step of our production chain – starting where the problem is the biggest. Our team member Billy is actively engaged on the north shore of Java, Indonesia, where he manages our clean-up activities to gradually clear the sea from plastic. Our very own network of 1,500 fishermen collects ocean plastic as by-catch. The PET parts are what forms the raw material for GOT BAG products. They are cleaned, pressed into pellets, processed as yarn and ultimately turned into the polyester fabric for backpacks and bags. Between 1.5 and 5 kilograms of plastic waste are recycled for each product produced.
But providing environmentally and socially compatible products is not enough for us. We also organize training sessions on waste separation for the local community on Java, to create a collective awareness about plastic pollution. GOT BAG also helps to support the establishment of a waste infrastructure in rural areas. In the long term, we hope to persuade the local government to rethink the way it operates Indonesia’s waste management system.
In your opinion what role should governments and global institutions play in addressing ocean pollution? How can they be more effective in this role?
In general, GOT BAG is no political institution and therefore has hardly any experience with political work. From the team’s perspective, governance and political activity are very complex issues and they follow the conviction that change can only be achieved jointly, holistically and globally.
Based on the experience of GOT BAG’s employees on site in Indonesia, who are confronted with the pollution of the oceans on a daily basis, the startup is offering food for thought of each one of us – to integrate behavioral changes into daily life. The goal is not only to take a holistic view of the plastic pollution and to reduce the amount of waste in the oceans, but also to raise awareness and to sensitize people to a more conscious use of natural resources.
It is therefore very important to the team that its activities in Indonesia are not limited to cleaning and processing the PET. Rather, GOT BAG is looking to find suitable recycling solutions for the other types of plastic recovered by the fishermen as well. In addition, the fishermen themselves have become important multipliers for educating the local population. They communicate their knowledge about plastic waste and recycling and make their environment more aware to protect nature and natural resources to support GOT BAG’s mission to engage people worldwide in sustainable business practices. In addition, GOT BAG organizes workshops which, complemented by educational work, have increased the pressure on local authorities to find solutions for a sustainable waste system.
Should you be interested in getting yourself a GOT BAG, GOT BAG has provided an exclusive 10% discount for my readers; you would need to use this code MSPAULAPRESENTS10 here.