Tires to treasure: Upcycling business transforms discarded inner tubes to bags

By Miguel Hanz L. Antivola, Reporter

CHAMPIONING an eco-ethical upcycling enterprise takes resourcefulness, creativity, and innovation to sustain operations, according to entrepreneur Lyndon Ecuacion.

When Mr. Ecuacion and his wife were immersed in island backpacking in the 2000s, they sought dry compact bags to protect the cameras and electronic equipment they brought with them on their trips.

Due to limited availability back then, they fashioned their own bags from tires scattered on beachsides, which gave the couple an idea for a new venture.

“By 2010, malls started banning plastic use, and the push of the government was more on environmental consciousness,” Mr. Ecuacion, co-founder of Siklo Pilipinas, said in an interview with BusinessWorld.

This inspired them to grow their resourcefulness for business, he added.

Mr. Ecuacion scouted for discarded innertubes from neighboring vulcanizing shops, used his exposure in factory production, and modified five secondhand sewing machines to accommodate retail offerings.

“I wanted to learn the line production myself,” he said. “I needed to know how to do it myself, so I can teach our future workers.”

“But I also needed to have the machines’ components fabricated just for it to work because rubber was sticky, unlike leather that slips,” he added.

They finally set up a stall at a community weekend market in 2012, which built a patronage that encouraged them amid challenges in handling the unconventional bag material.

“Our crude work was always sold out. The response was good,” Mr. Ecuacion said.

INNERTUBE BENEFITS

Mr. Ecuacion saw a unique opportunity to reap the benefits and make another life out of what was considered waste material.

He noted innertubes’ heat tolerance, pliability, and durability as the main advantages of the material. “It also catches the attention of people. It makes them curious.”

“But it also had quirks that made it ‘imperfect,’” Mr. Ecuacion added, noting that each bag is uniquely handmade.

To bridge that gap and build market confidence, Siklo Pilipinas offered lifetime support and a warranty of two years for each bag.

GROWTH

However, Mr. Ecuacion noted that the business grew over the years by primarily banking on design trends and the growing public’s environmental consciousness, without much marketing spend.

“We just did casual promotion because repeat customers spread the word,” he added on having a basic online presence via website and social media.

Siklo Pilipinas has survived for over a year — having upcycled over 30 tons of discarded tire innertubes, regularly employing seven workers, and sustaining a demand for corporate giveaways and some exports.

“We aren’t business experts; everything is usually just hit or miss,” Mr. Ecuacion said.

“Whatever comes our way, we just find solutions and don’t deal too much on projections,” he added.

UPCYCLING OUTLOOK

For Mr. Ecuacion, relying on his creative aptitude is the key to sustaining the business.

“I’m always excited to create something, although not everything works,” he said. “We welcome failure like a puzzle that needs to be solved.”

This kind of thinking is needed, especially in an upcycling venture, he added, which is vital to support the growth of the circular economy in the country.

Circular economies minimize waste and promote sustainable use of resources.

“We welcome competition because it fosters growth [of the upcycling industry],” he said on inviting more players to join the market.

After receiving invitations throughout the years, Mr. Ecuacion and his wife eye the formation of a local upcycling organization in the Philippines to be on par with the events and initiatives of other countries.