Product Development and Production: Upcycled Vegan Card Holder

Having worked with leather since 2006 I have increasingly felt the need to source more sustainable, less carbon intensive and preferably recycled materials. After careful experimentation and prototyping with reclaimed drinks cartons, I have developed an upcycled, super minimal card holder.

As the carton material consists of plastic, board and foil, and I only use fruit juice or non-dairy milk cartons the finished product is vegan friendly. It’s a new and totally unique (I think) way to extract use value from our single use consumer waste. The foil layer in the silver option also blocks RFID payments to help guard against contactless card fraud.

In this blog post I explain more about my product development and production method.

Various prototypes, development samples and construction experiments using upcycled juice and soy milk cartons.

Various prototypes, development samples and construction experiments using upcycled juice and soy milk cartons.

From my initial idea, which came about after seeking more sustainable alternatives to leather, I tested many different layouts, construction methods and dimensions before arriving at the card holder below.

The design needed to balance strength and durability with thickness and usability, and also take into consideration the existing fold lines of the cartons. The design may continue to evolve as I receive further feedback from customers.

Although the construction requires accuracy and attention to detail, mistakes are not as crucial as when cutting leather as the material is recyclable. Also, the material is also very uniform, so it’s easy to handle.

I gather or ‘glean’ used cartons from local businesses (including Watershed Cinema, Bristol) and post-consumer waste. I rinse them out, cut off the ends and slit the corner seams to flatten, hot wash thoroughly with eco-friendly washing liquid and dry them out.

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Everything is done by hand using a steel rule, scalpel, awl and cutting mat. The various cut and score lines for the individual card holder pieces are accurately measured and marked onto the cartons. There’s no adhesive, just skillful folding and pattern cutting.

Each card holder uses 2-3 fruit juice or soy milk cartons, with the offcuts being sent for conventional recycling.

Components for the card holders scored, cut, folded and assembled ready for machine stitching.

Components for the card holders scored, cut, folded and assembled ready for machine stitching.

The card holders are then machine stitched with nylon thread on an industrial sewing machine. The threads are trimmed short and burned to seal, and each item is carefully checked before leaving my workshop.

I would estimate they are currently over 95% upcycled materials, and I’m currently looking to source a very strong recycled thread to make them 100% recycled.

Machine stitching the card holder with an industrial sewing machine.

Machine stitching the card holder with an industrial sewing machine.