Spotlight on Ag – Saving the Planet one Dzine at a Time

Heather and Josh Carpenter

Heather and Josh Carpenter

There are those who see problems, and those who see solutions. Landfill Dzine has been steadily working to fashion change, and the journey has tested the team’s tenacity, and creative abilities. When husband and wife duo, Josh and Heather Carpenter survey their line of sleek, upcycled selections, they see every step of the challenging journey that has led to this point.

According to Josh, “We had an idea, and we just kept going. Eventually we just broke through.”

It was a seemingly simple idea that set them on their course. The couple was riding high on the success of their recycling center, A & J Industrial, which had carved out a niche in the agricultural community. One of the major ingredients to their success was their dedication to recycling almost anything. The couple was constantly trying to find new ways to process materials. But they were about to meet their match.

In 2009, they were approached by a large irrigation company, to do something with their lay-flat tubing. Due to the composition of lay-flat tubing, it is impossible to recycle. The couple took on the challenge, and began to brainstorm the possibilities. It was Heather who connected the dots between fashion and sustainability. The young solutioneer presented the idea of turning it into totes. Naturally, her husband chuckled at the image of her carrying a bag from the heavy material, but the idea was born, and began to foster in their minds.

As they set about looking for ways to upcycle the material, a multitude of purposes were thrown around, including swing sets, and floor mats. Ultimately none of them seemed quite right.

The upcycling process, from hose to handbag.

The upcycling process, from hose to handbag.

In 2013, China’s Green Fence policy came into play, which made it difficult to ship any recycled goods overseas. This came as quite a blow to A & J recycling, which exported 90 percent of their business. They were dangerously close to being obsolete. While trying to find domestic mills, a farmer came to them with material that would be lucrative for them. The couple quickly agreed to take it, on one condition: They also had to accommodate a large amount of lay-flat tubing. The stakes were high, and the couple knew that the time had arrived to create the handbag line.

The first step was to approach handbag manufacturers in the US, with cut strips from the tubing. No one was interested. Around this time, a fortuitous Christmas party occurred. The couple had commissioned a manufacturer to make a tent for the party, and it struck them that the material that had been used, was similar to the makeup of lay-flat tubing. They went back to the manufacturer, and commissioned the bags. Thankfully, they said yes, and the first two bags were designed.

They then set about looking in the overseas market. Nobody would sew the heavy material. They received discouraging feedback. After being turned down by 40 manufacturers, they drew on their own reserves to continue. After all, they knew that this idea could boost their business and create a new paradigm in the recycling industry. Finally they convinced three manufacturers; Two in China, and one in Vietnam, through a fair trade agreement. The handmade bamboo bags are all a little different, just like the women whose lives are impacted by the boost in their income. Landfill Dzine had officially turned trash into trendy, finally answering the need for a way to upcycle lay-flat tubing. Truly dedicated to their cause, they began finding new purposes such as flip-flops, belts, and bracelets, (made from flip-flop scraps). The journey of repurpose had found its way.

According to Heather, “The bottom line is we just didn’t take no for an answer.”

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