Many hands make light work for Boomerang Bags makers

Bag makers: From left to right; Lyn Smith, Lucille Piesse, Will Holdaway, Dianne Da Re, Colleen Bandy, and Deborah Scoullar. Photo: Matthew Lau

Bag makers: From left to right; Lyn Smith, Lucille Piesse, Will Holdaway, Dianne Da Re, Colleen Bandy, and Deborah Scoullar. Photo: Matthew Lau

Tucked away in a hall behind the All Saints Anglican Church in the heart of Donnybrook is a small team of volunteers patching together fabric shopping bags by hand.

Boomerang Bags is a community-driven initiative tackling plastic pollution at the grassroots level.

It started in the eastern states and exists in various towns in Western Australia, including Bunbury.

The idea is to take recycled fabrics – be it pre-loved clothes, curtains, bed sheets, or duna bags to name a few – and use the material to handcraft non-plastic shopping bags.

The main aim is to reduce the amount of plastic that goes to land-fill and oceans by offering the Boomerang Bags for locals or visitors to use for free.

The name “Boomerang” is used in the hope that shoppers will return them to the place they picked them up from on their next visit or continue to use them as they are easily washable.

Co-initiators Colleen Bandy and Lyn Smith planned to bring the movement to Donnybrook around the same time, so instead they collaborated to manage it together.

They hope to roll out the scheme mid-January, with Donnybrook IGA and the Fruit Barn ready to trial it.

“Through Boomerang Bags we start conversations, make friends, up-cycle materials and work towards shifting society’s throw away mentality to a more sustainable revolution of re-use – one community, needle and thread at a time,” Bandy said.

“We have so many different people who have joined our team who have so many gifts and talents who we are dipping into.”

They are planning a big launch, and will use their imagination and creativity to conjure up something exciting.

The "borrow and bring back" bags are handy for when people forget to bring their own bags to the shops; there is no limit on how many they can take or keep hold of.

“We believe that climate change has gone beyond being a government issue, it is now an issue for the individual and the community. We all need to take action now. We don't have time to wait for a government move,” Bandy said.

What keeps the volunteers driven is the notion that they could spare one plastic bag at a time from going into the environment.

“A lot of our work is in getting people educated and get people talking about their use of plastics, which is going into waterways and landfill. Too much going to landfill that is unnecessary.”

Nigel Tuia, Hastie Waste owner, gives his thoughts on plastic bags from a waste management perspective.

“Plastic bags certainly have their place – lots of people use them,” he said.

“They can be a litter issue, but they can be handy for holding litter as well.”

While much of the waste they received at the rubbish sites were in plastic bags, he said it could be a bigger mess without the plastic bags to hold them in.

“I can understand why people might want to ban them but there are a lot more evil things in the world,” Tuia said.

There are 52 communities nationwide where Boomerang Bags is registered.

Donnybrook-based co-initiator Lyn Smith said the bags could take a mere five minutes to make from start to finish, provided the production line had a full team on hand.

“Our long-term plan is to have enough in the shops and have a monthly meeting at the church,” Smith said.

She hopes tourists might keep a bag as a souvenir as it has a Donnybrook logo on it.

The team has applied for a grant from the Shire of Donnybrook-Balingup for a multi-purpose box to be kept at Donnybrook IGA.

Fabric donations can be left at All Saints Anglican Church by the hall.

For more information about Boomerang Bags or to join as a volunteer, call: 0439996452 or go to: boomerangbags.org

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