With the demise of single-use plastic shopping bags, we are now turning to re-usable alternatives. Boomerang Bags was way ahead of the pack; founded in 2013 as a way to recycle our waste products and turn them into attractive recycled shopping bags.
We spoke to Manning Valley resident Kay Barton, who has set up a local Boomerang Bags group to find out more about this amazingly innovative social enterprise that’s growing in popularity here in Australia, and abroad.
Hello Kay! For those of us who have never heard of Boomerang Bags, can you give us some background about how they came into being?
Boomerang Bags is a not for profit organisation which was originally devised and developed by two women from Burleigh Heads in 2013. Their aim was to create a viable alternative to single use plastic bags by up-cycling unwanted sheets, curtains, doonas, tablecloths etc. into reusable, washable shopping bags.
The spin-offs from this project became immediately obvious. It created conversations about sustainability and the health of our planet, and people saw it as something they could do at a grassroots level – people really do want to do something! The five year take up statistics prove this. In 2014 there were three Boomerang Bag communities; in 2015 there were ten, 63 in 2016, 400 by the end of 2017, and this year over 900 communities worldwide.
Another major spin off has been the building of social connections. Our Manning Valley group grew out of our local gym class group. We meet for “coffee” after our class, where conversations range far and wide. We decided we could and should get a group underway, which we did 12 months ago. We have acquired members from beyond the gym group circle since, providing another avenue for forging new friendships.
What do you love about the group you established here in Taree?
What I love about our group is the goodwill it generates. Everyone greets the idea with absolute positivity. Initially, the enthusiasm of friends to form our group was the motivation. As friends it created another opportunity for us to meet and do something useful.
Mid Coast Council had a small JR Richards Reducing Waste Grant available, which allowed us to purchase screen printing equipment for the Boomerang Bags logo, and when the Manning Uniting Church offered us the use of one of their meeting rooms complete with sewing machines, it was then possible for us to get underway. Many local businesses have been generous with donations, and others have offered to take our bag display tree. Until recently Go Vita Taree was a successful location for our bags, but presently we have our tree at The Otherside Art Café at Ghinni Ghinni, and a small number at Granty’s Fruit Shop Wingham.
At the outset we didn’t have to look far for donations of fabric; our own sewing and linen cupboards provided us with a great start, and we find people are delighted when they discover the possibilities of their own cupboards. It’s quite a buzz to see a doona you’ve tired of turned into half a dozen bags. Other donations have come from local businesses who deal in fabric in some shape or form.
Our group has about a dozen members – an ideal size for our location. We are not all machinists; some iron, some pin, some screen print and some liaise (code for talk). Two men from our gym class belong to a local Men’s Shed, and they built our display tree. It’s proved to be a case of using the skills we already have, learning new ones and making community contacts.
The original Boomerang Bag concept was to leave a collection of bags at a local shop, perhaps a fruit shop or supermarket, for people to borrow and return, but that proved difficult – with bags not being returned. However, the basic philosophy was met, because bags were obviously going to be reused. By the time we came on board last year, that approach had been abandoned. Some groups use the logo “Bought to Support”, but our group simply decided to use the Boomerang Bag logo with Manning Valley below. We decided to sell our bags for $2 or $3 to cover our running costs, with the remainder being donated to Manning Uniting Church Welfare Fund.
Where can people buy your group’s Boomerang Bags?
From the outset we decided we wouldn’t feel compelled or pressured to produce large numbers of bags, as we all have busy lives and families that keep us busy, but presently we have a supply at The Other Side Art Café, Ghinni Ghinni and Granty’s Fruit Shop at Wingham.
Our region has a number of Boomerang Bags communities, and they can be found on the Boomerang Bag website or their Facebook page.
For people who are thinking of getting a group started up themselves, can you explain how to go about this?
We found the Boomerang Bag website www.boomerangbags.org provided us with all the information we needed to start our group, including how to make the bags. Both Tania and Jordyn, the founders, are very helpful and will talk you through anything and everything. They encourage you to work out what suits your group best; the only requirement is to register your group and use the Boomerang Bag logo, which they will supply. Not all groups screen print their logos; we do, because we have a screen printer in our group, but there are other logo options.
Donations of fabric, for us, have come by word of mouth. Often simply by carrying your Boomerang Bag with you when you shop people comment and invariably know where to find some suitable fabric.
Any final thoughts?
This is such a win-win project, and I would confidently say for myself, and probably other members of our Manning Valley group, that creating Boomerang Bags is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable voluntary activities we’ve been associated with.
Interview: Ingrid Bayer.