Entrepreneur hopes sturdy rice sack will replace plastic bags

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 March, 2009, 12:00am

If you walk past a construction site, you can often see used rice sacks being employed to cart gravel off to the landfill. Those hardy 25kg rice bags are being given a new lease of life by entrepreneur Brian Pemberton, who has got them resewn into what he claims are the most environmentally friendly shopping bags in Hong Kong.

ThreeSixty, Asia's largest organic and natural food store, agrees and has taken on a contract with Pemberton to sell his bags. It is the start of a relationship that the Briton hopes will result in millions of us using strong former rice bags, rather than the 6 million plastic bags used every day in Hong Kong.

'I've always had an interest in environmental issues, and I was looking to start up a business and knew that this was an area of the market that is not going to disappear,' said Pemberton, 37, founder of ReSACKel. 'I felt if these bags, which are often discarded on the side of the road, were strong enough to carry 25kg of rice, or gravel, and then they certainly could carry your shopping.'

Using thousands of bags gathered in southern China, Pemberton has them cut and sewn in Shenzhen. 'We have paper tags to explain who we are and how the bags have been made, but other than that, we just use the beautiful designs which are already on the rice sacks.'

'All the energy that went into the rice bag is saved, and also all the energy that is used normally to create new bags. What we provide is simple, clean and made by hand, using mild detergents which are environmentally friendly.'

Now if we can just persuade ThreeSixty to get more produce within a 160km radius, and less flown in, then we're really talking environmental.