April 28, 2015 by Ellis Dixon
From Trash to Totes: Q&A With Tânia Anselmo of Garbags
CEO and founder of Garbags, Tânia Anselmo. Photos courtesy of Garbags
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as they say. In the case of Tânia Anselmo, CEO and “best believer” of Garbags, it’s your trash that becomes your treasure.
Need a pannier for your bike? They’ve got ’em! Need a Portuguese coffee wallet? No problem. The store carries handmade wallets, shoes, cases, and bags up-cycled from packaging materials like bags of chips, promotional banners, coffee bags, toothpaste tubes, and more.
Atlas sat down for a chat with Tânia to get a better idea of the story behind the storefront, her background, philosophy, and how to rock trash without it looking trashy.
Tânia is a native of Sintra, Portugal with a background in environmental engineering. She has done her fair share of globe trotting – making it to Gokyo at 4500m of altitude on Mount Everest for one, but if you ask, she’ll tell you the most rewarding adventure she has had is the creation and cultivation of her business, Garbags.
What gave you the idea? Was there a “Eureeka” moment or did it happen over time?
Not at all! Garbags was an idea that slowly developed. The concept is based on a strong will to make a difference in the recycling and business world. I think the way we do things is as important as what we do. Garbags is an environmental project to inspire people to look at waste in a different light by offering a fun alternative to it. When I founded the business in 2011, the first product we developed was the toothpaste tube pencil-case which still makes a lot of customers smile!
Where do you get your materials?
People are invited to donate their used packages at our shop and become a Garbags Friend through our P2P program which awards their environmental conscience with great discounts, exclusive prices and eco-vouchers. We also have a local
collecting system – periodically our staff collects materials from local cafés, bars, restaurants, local associations and events. We have also developed official partnerships with local and international business like Colgate and Emirates.
How are they manufactured?
Garbags are hand-made in Lisbon by our six-woman team of local professional sewers who work from home.
To solve a problem, you need to admit you have one. In Portugal only 20% of the total waste produced is recycled. Understanding this as a problem was my motive to . . . turn this problem into a
good business opportunity. I had something to give.
Your store is in Alfama. What made you choose that neighborhood?
We were in the beginning of business and needed a base close to the St. Jorge castle where we had our main selling point. It was a coincidence to find this shop. Nobody except me believed this place would become the bright spot it is today. We had to deal with drug dealers doing their business in front of the store, non-careful neighbors daily disposing their garbage at or door, drunk and loud people… But I knew the impact this project could have in the community, that it would only be a matter of time, but I never thought it would be this fast!
Tell me about the Purpose Economy 100 Europe List and how you were chosen to be on it.
It’s a list of pioneer businesses in Europe chosen by Aaron Hurst who argues that our new economic era is driven by connecting people to their purpose. It’s an economy where value lies in establishing purpose for employees and customers through serving needs greater than their own, enabling personal growth and building community.
How we were chosen is still a mistery to me – we’re on a list with BMW, IKEA and other well-established companies but as the Garbags founder, it surely doesn’t surprise me why!
What is your favorite product today?
My favorite is our Garbackpack. It’s ergonomic, comfortable, spacy, strong and very original! I wear one myself and I love to change flaps, to suit my outfit. We sell extra flaps separately so one bag can become two or three.
What’s next on the horizon? Where do you see Garbags in 5 years?
We’re now strongly investing in the on-line market. In five years my goal is to be international, offering an alternative to local waste in several European capitals.
Our picks: Flapme bag in Coffee red, Negrita Notebook, Minigardocs in Urban GreyAtlas is excited to watch the evolution of recyclables into wearable and useable items. The next time you’re in the Graça/Alfama area, ditch the obvious tourist splurges and opt for something a little more charming and a little less wasteful.