UPCYCLING IS A DIY BUZZWORD that refers to reworking reclaimed materials into something beautiful, useful or both. And with some 12m cars and almost 2m bicycles junked each year in the US alone, the transportation sector provides no shortage of raw materials for clever upcyclists. Some clothing and accessory companies have made names for themselves by turning vehicular bric-a-brac into stylish and eco-friendly — and sometimes pricy — bits of haute couture. Herewith, six companies that are transforming transporation trash into treasure.

Sewing old seatbelts into hard-wearing bags

Canada-based USED — which stands for Unlimited Supplies from Everyone’s Discards — aims to divert as much post-consumer waste from the junkyard as they can. What once strapped across a motorist’s chest now hangs off a shoulder as a repurposed handbag strap, and the bag itself is made from a rainbow of old belts, with a closure provided by a reclaimed seatbelt buckle.

Alchemy Goods
Transforming discarded bicycle tyre tubes into bags and belts

Eli Reich, founder of Alchemy Goods, had his bag stolen, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise: Instead of buying a new one, he just created one himself. Being a cyclist, he had a collection of old bike tubes lying around, and decided to take to a sewing machine and repurpose them as an eco-friendly tote. They were a hit, and demand shot up. The Seattle-based retailer also sells backpacks, wallets, belts, and more, all fashioned from blown-out inner tubes and old car seatbelts.

Crafting tough messenger bags from automotive air bags

Air bags save lives—and when old ones are recycled to make accessories instead of being thrown away, they save the environment as well. The fine nylon fabric used to make Keen Footwear's £100 Harvest III messenger bag — which, for the record, is pre-consumer waste, so no post-wreck salvage air bags here — is tough, lightweight and water-resistant.

Building new shoes atop discarded tyre treads

Creating inexpensive and amazingly durable footwear with soles made from the treads of discarded tyres has long been practice in Africa, and Ethiopia-based SoleRebels, which calls itself the Nike of Africa, continues the tradition (minus the inexpensive part) with a range of hand-crafted shoes for men and women. In addition to their old-tyre soles, the company's shoes often use materials like fabric made from Ethiopian banana-leaf fibres and rubber from discarded inner tubes.

The Weld House
Flattening steel body panels into conversation-piece furniture

Old car parts aren’t just finding their way onto your feet and shoulders. They’re in your living rooms, too. US-based Weld House takes steel panels from junked cars and pickup trucks and creates desks, coffee tables and objets d'art, and keeps the piece's weathered patina, no touchups or paint-overs allowed. 

Platinum Dirt
Skinning old car seats to make supremely cool leather jackets

The words stylish and car upholstery don’t often go in the same sentence, but retailer Platinum Dirt taps into recycled auto seats to stretch the limits of fashion. Dustin Page uses old seats to create customized leather jackets, and each sports the license plate number of the vehicle that provided the materials. The jackets are made from the reclaimed leather from the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Lincoln, Cadillac, BMW and Volvo. You can rock this jacket the way you want it by deciding colors, leather options, liners, sizes, and so much more—as long as you’re willing to shell out nearly £700.

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