Tangerines, strawberries, and melons…oh my! With innovative fruit leather handbags, these Rotterdam students are making waves and reducing food waste, one purse at a time.
According to the Government of the Netherlands website, Dutch consumers throw away approximately $2.8 billion (USD) worth of food. This is equivalent to nearly 14 percent of the total food purchased in each household and has led to an alarming degree of waste. Among the items discarded most often, such as milk, bread, vegetables, and oils, is the crucial component to these leather-like bags being made by the students – fruit.
In reality, when discussing food waste, the word waste actually means the disposal of edible goods that are still fit for consumption. As an attempt to combat the food waste epidemic, the Damn Food Waste advocacy project was created to bring awareness to Dutch citizens. Its mission is to educate others on how to make the most of their waste – learning how to extend the shelf life of products, recipes and ideas for leftovers, and even how to make new bread from old bread, are just a few of the educational exhibitions presented.
In addition to the steps the country is already taking, students from the Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam are working diligently and creatively in an effort to reduce fruit waste from the local market. According to its website, the twice weekly outdoor market in Binnenrotte, Blaak, is the largest in the Netherlands, and in turn means the largest amount of fruit and vegetable waste – to the tune of around 7, 700 pounds of discarded items per day, containing pieces as benign as an “imperfect mango and some squashed nectarines.”
The fruit leather purses got their humble beginnings as an answer to the illegal dumping of waste by market vendors. Any leftover and flawed produce that didn’t sell would cost retailers approximately .13 cents per every two pounds of disposable waste, so they sought a cheaper alternative. Willem de Kooning Academie students scoured the market’s leftover fruit for months and eventually developed a new material from a “particular process” that they deemed Original Rotterdam Fruitleather.
As part of their graduation project, students from a variety of design backgrounds collaborated on several levels in order to plan, conceptualize, execute, market, and curate their fruit leather handbags. With the philosophy that “food isn’t trash, you just need to find a different purpose for the resisting material,” they sought a solution and believe that they found one in gastronomy.
Inspired by the chefs that use different techniques to transform fruits and vegetables, including the method for creating fruit leather, the students’ process is similar in that they also mash, cook, and dry fruits, but have chosen to keep their exact recipe under wraps. And, in case you were wondering, they do remove the seeds and pits before getting started.
Although these purses are currently better used as a delicious snack than as a substantial handbag (material standards can be viewed here), the Rotterdam students and their tasty totes are being supported by Materia, a leader in the realm of innovative materials. Their goal is to develop a studier, more durable material from the perishable goods in order to turn this concept into a reality.
If successfully marketed mainstream, the impact the students’ fruit leather could make in reducing food waste has the potential to spur change all over the world. Not only would it give designer handbag retailers a run for their money – step aside Dooney & Bourke – but it would be an excellent catalyst for redesigning other products that may be compatible with this material, like wallets, jackets, belts, shoes, and even home goods. Imagine the conversations and awareness those icebreakers would conjure up!
This inventive team seems to have thought of everything, including the fruit leather material swatches already available in varying shades of earth tones, because as they’ve discovered – different fruits produce different leathers. So here’s to hoping there’ll be a purse ripe for the picking in our futures very soon. In the meantime, check out the Facebook page for regular updates on the ongoing project.
Now that you’ve had an in-depth glimpse into the world of fruit leather handbags, we want to hear from you! Would you purchase a purse made from fruit? If this material is reinforced, what are some of your ideas for creative applications? Let your voice be heard on the EcoSalon Facebook page!
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Image of Fruit Purse via Fruitleather Rotterdam