Brooklyn native turns single-use plastic bags into reusable totes

Meet Alex Dabagh, the founder of aNYbag, the company turning New York City’s plastic trash into luxury totes. 

Plastic has been a blessing and burden for humankind. The artificial material can create inexpensive and useful goods, but most plastics outlive humans. It takes plastic bags anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years to decompose in landfills. Many experts believe that one solution is recycling plastic rather than creating more. 

Dabagh is a Brooklyn native using his family’s expertise in leather manufacturing to engineer plastic textiles. 

“We’re taking trash and giving it a better life, a second use,” Dabagh told In The Know. “So, in my mind, sustainability is aNYbag. If we have all this trash going out, why not do something with it? Why not reimagine it?” 

Located on 29th Street and 6th Avenue, Dabagh’s factory first belonged to his father back in 1982. Growing up around textile-making with his father, a leather smith, is part of what inspired Dabagh. 

“I grew up in this factory all my life,” Dabagh said. “In the last five years, I’ve kind of taken it over. When I started aNYbag two years ago, my dad looked at me like I had three heads. My employees looked at me like I had three heads. And they were like, what are you doing?” 

He came up with aNYbag one night when he began to wonder where his trash was actually being taken in NYC. 

“So my mind just started running with that idea,” he said. “And because we’re a leather manufacturer at heart, and weaving leather is one of our specialties, I was able to figure out a way to take this plastic textile, reengineer it, melt it together, and create strips that we use to weave the plastic. This has never been done before. We’re pioneering this type of technology, this engineering of plastic.” 

Each aNYbag is made of 98 single-use plastic bags. The company partners with elementary schools, packaging companies, supermarkets and even ordinary people to collect used plastic bags. In 2021 alone, aNYbag collected over 588,000 single-use plastic bags. 

Of course, it wouldn’t be aNYbag (a homonym for a New York bag) without being incredibly chic. The classic tote is available in vibrant colors like pink, blue and neon.

“It’s a fashion statement,” Dabagh said. “Every time I wear mine, I get stopped left and right. And they’re like, oh what is that? I’m like, it’s trash. And they’re like, no, really, what is it? I’m like, it’s New York City’s finest trash.” 

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