Imagine an initiative that helps to reduce the devastating environmental impact of plastic while also building community, teaching new skills and upcycling materials. Boomerang Bags is doing all that and more, and it’s arrived in the Mountains.
Boomerang Bags first began on the Gold Coast in 2013. It addresses the problem of plastics at a grassroots level by engaging communities of volunteers to make cloth shopping bags out of upcycled materials.
The bags are placed in stores for shoppers to ‘borrow and bring back’. It’s sparked so much excitement that there are now over 260 Boomerang Bag communities worldwide with around 80,000 bags in circulation.
The problem that Boomerang Bags is addressing is a big one. Plastics are a huge cause for concern from the very beginning of their production, as they are made from nonrenewable resources such as crude oil, gas and coal. Despite the fact that plastic bags can be recycled, only 3% actually are. The rest pollute our environment and some eventually enter our food chain. According to Clean Up Australia, we are throwing away over 7,000 plastic bags a minute, and worldwide plastic bags contribute to around 3.5 million tons of waste each year.
But there is something we can do about this huge problem. We can stop using plastic bags and use reusable cloth bags instead. And Boomerang Bags is here to help.
Boomerang Bags Blackheath started in late 2016, closely followed by Boomerang Bags Blue Mountains, with regular working bees in Blackheath, Katoomba, Hazelbrook and Springwood. The initiative has been met with huge enthusiasm by local residents.
Anna Ingham began Boomerang Bags Blackheath after joining, and learning from, a Sydney group. She thought it would work really well in Blackheath and began collecting materials and sewing machines. “The world knows us for our beautiful environment so reducing plastic is a good thing to promote,” Anna points out. The Blackheath group meets in the Blackheath Community Op Shop, giving them the opportunity to reuse materials that the shop is not able to sell. “Our aim is to recycle as much of their waste as possible.” Anna also finds that being in the Op Shop gives them lots of opportunities for sharing the project with shoppers as they pass through. There is a growing sense of community and friendship as a result of the project. They have now made over 200 bags and are aiming to make 400 before launching in Blackheath’s local supermarket in August.
Boomerang Bags Blue Mountains began as the result of Trish Adams, Liz Smith and members of the Springwood Chamber of Commerce connecting up. They launched their Facebook page in March this year and have had a number of successful sewing bees, making over 250 bags. People have not only been involved by attending sewing bees, but also by donating huge amounts of materials in the form of threads, fabrics (including old curtains and linens for up-cycling), and screen printing inks. The group are aiming to make 200 bags for each of the three townships before launching in a few smaller shops.
What is striking about Boomerang Bags is that it is achieving so much more than just reducing plastics. “People are sharing skills and meeting new friends, getting out and not being isolated”, says Liz Smith, who coordinates the Hazelbrook sewing bees through Mountains Outreach Community Services (MOCS), who are temporarily auspicing the project. “There is such a wide age range, so many generations of people who are interested,” says Rachel Hall, who coordinates the Springwood bees.
If you’re keen to get involved there are many jobs – ironing, cutting, pinning, printing, sourcing fabrics and threads, making cups of tea and snacks, and just cheering volunteers on!
Other groups can be found via www.boomerangbags.org