Australian-owned company develops fashionable solution to the plastic bag for retailers

Innovative Melbourne eco-fashion business DIRECT TO SOURCE has developed ECO-TOTE in response to the world-wide consumer driven movement to remove single use plastic bags from retail businesses.

Using sustainable fabrics like hemp, organic cotton and Recycled polyester (RPET) made from plastic bottles, ECO-TOTE offers a range of stylish bags that carry retail into the future.

Owner and fashion industry veteran Tim Austin says, ‘The industry knows it needs to start being accountable on an environmental level.

'Fashion designers and savvy retailers are thought leaders and taste makers, a position they work hard to achieve and enjoy. Most of these people are well aware of the environmental impacts of fast fashion and are desperate to start changing the way things are done.'

Clean-up Australia estimates 3.76 billion bags or 20,700 tonnes of plastic are disposed of in landfill sites throughout Australia every year - that's 7,150 plastic bags every minute or 429,000 bags every hour. It is also estimated that around 50 million bags enter the Australian litter stream every year. It's no wonder shoppers want a better solution.

And the tide is changing fast, driven by millennial stars like Emma Watson and Isabel Lucas who urge followers to consider environmental aspects to fashion purchases, Tim has already seen major national retailers take up ECO-TOTE as their point-of-sale solution. ‘Over the last few years I’ve travelled the world sourcing the best eco-fabrics and ethical manufacturing solutions and I think a key difference in what we offer is the credentials in these areas,' Austin says.

‘Businesses are excited to offer solutions that they know are genuinely certified sustainable,’ he continues. In fact the largest hemp fabric manufacturer in the world, for whom he is the exclusive Australian distributor, is totally off the grid - entirely solar powered.

ECO-TOTE Account Manager Lisa Van Den Bogaert says, 'For too long, the options retailers have had for reusable bags have been pretty dated, which is why we saw an opportunity to offer far more sophisticated options that are cool and value for money - not only for the customer but also the business.'

And in that statement, she may have uncovered the real glory in this bag story: ECO-TOTE has seen a few of their early national retail clients turn the significant cost of producing give-away point-of-sale branded plastic bags into a cost-neutral and even profitable exercise with ECO-TOTE. It seems customers are aware of the cost to the environment from plastic and are happy to pay a few dollars for the sustainable alternative. It also gives them a new ‘branded’ bag that they can continue using and for the retailer, that is marketing gold!  

ECO-TOTE offers a range of fashionable off-the-shelf styles that can be customised with brand artwork or other designs. It also offers a fully customised service, where unique designs can be developed with the sustainable fabrics and produced cost-efficiently using ethical off-shore manufacturing.

ECO-TOTE is geared to handle large retail accounts working direct with accredited manufacturers, but they are also keen to help smaller independent retailers and offer available stock in Melbourne with local printers on hand to complete lower quantity orders.  

'This really is an opportunity for fashion houses and retailers in general to show their environmental colours and significantly reduce their costs; it's a big win for the industry,' says Austin.

You could even say it's TOTES AMAZING!




HEMP is a naturally strong, breathable, and durable fibre. It is fast becoming the ideal fabric of the future due to its low impact on the environment. Hemp has high resistance to pests and it's dense growth does not require chemicals of any kind. As well as being 100% compostable at the end of its life, the plant regenerates and improves soil health as it grows. Hemp bags are rot resistant, can be machine washed and have a texture like linen.


Farmers use non-genetically modified crops and abstain from any synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, which are harmful and damaging to both people and the environment. Additionally, production of certified organic cotton is beneficial because it uses less water and energy to produce a softer and more breathable fabric.


Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (RPET) is created by turning used plastic bottles into polyester fibre. This not only reduces landfill but it causes far less air pollution than making new PET. Recycled PET is a strong durable, performance fibre as it wicks away moisture and guarantees easy care. Clean Up Australia statistics show that only 3% of of plastic is recycled and the remaining 97% goes into landfill or our waterways. RPET is an incredible product opportunity to help change this statistic.


Tim Austin is a fashion industry veteran having entered the industry directly from school in the late 1980’s. Since ending a successful six year stint as Director of Private Label
Development at Grab Industries (Melb) in 2007 Tim, started Direct to Source,
a consultancy business specialising in Design, Product Development, Ethical Sourcing, Manufacturing, Branding, Sales, Marketing, Shipping and Logistics for companies like Myer, Witchery, Gorman, Dangerfield and Alannah Hill, his intimate knowledge of the industry brings significant credibility to the ECO-TOTE product offering. He is a long time advocate for sustainability within the industry and has worked closely with designers, manufacturers and logistics companies world-wide to create environmental and cost efficiency within every project he involves himself in. With a growing family of four children, Tim is in no doubt that he wants to hand over the planet to his kids in a better shape than it is now.



LISA Van Den Bogaert_sm.jpg

Lisa Van Den Bogaert has worked in the fashion industry for 20 years in design, production and styling. A self proclaimed ‘hippy’ she has always developed and promoted an alternative to the mainstream with natural & ethically made clothing, skincare and home products. As a stylist @the_holistic_stylist 
(Instagram) she has worked and networked with a community of like-minded designers and brands in the promotion of ethical and sustainable products. 'My first 'Green Bag' was bought in a Dublin supermarket 15 years ago, where a plastic bag was not a option! The bag was reused again and again until it literally fell apart,’ she proudly states.

Her involvement with DIRECT TO SOURCE developing ECO-TOTE with hemp, organic cotton and Recycled polyester fabrics has been a natural progression true to her beliefs in making ‘change for the better’.