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Fracking fashion: Argentine designers turns shale sand bags into handbags

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An Argentinian fashion company has found a new source of inspiration – and materials – in an unlikely place: plastic oil industry jute bags from the country’s huge Vaca Muerta shale formation, which they recycle to make shoes, bags and handbags.

The company founded by three sisters, Fracking Design – a reference to the controversial hydraulic fracturing process used in oil and gas extraction – takes plastic “Big Bags” used to contain the sand, which are then processed and mixed. with leather waste.

The oil and gas companies of Vaca Muerta, a huge shale formation the size of Belgium, use thousands of bags, most of which are not recycled but burned, releasing greenhouse gases.

“A well uses around 30,000 to 40,000 tonnes of sand. That’s about 26,500 bags, ”said Ornella Basilotta, 40, a clothing designer and member of the trio, who has partnered with energy companies in the region like state-owned energy giant YPF.

She said that around 40 families were now involved in the production chain and that the recycled plastic was “the equivalent of 1,100 trees that would be needed to absorb the carbon dioxide these bags would generate if they had been burned. “.

The sisters stumbled across the fields of Vaca Muerta on a trip to Patagonia in search of goat mohair wool.

Plastic and leather products – such as the “Frackilette” sandals – have appeared in the design store of the iconic MALBA Museum in Buenos Aires, are sold online, and also used by local oil companies as corporate gifts. sustainable.

Fracking Design extends to other industries and wishes to build on its work with the petroleum sector.

“Today we use 10% of what an (oil) well generates. In other words, we have a lot of work ahead of us to continue to grow, ”said Basilotta.

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