Plastic Free Bendigo: Action group aimed at ridding city of plastic bags

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Terrie Steve, with her sons Hunter and Chase, after leaving Coles Bendigo with a trolley full of plastic bags. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Terrie Steve, with her sons Hunter and Chase, after leaving Coles Bendigo with a trolley full of plastic bags. Picture: DARREN HOWE

A renewed push to make Bendigo plastic bag free is gathering momentum, with reusable ‘boomerang bags’ – potentially made by Department of Justice labour – destined for shopfronts across the region.

Plastic Free Bendigo – a recently formed Bendigo Sustainability action group – plans to partner with local supermarkets to give consumers the option of using the recycled, fabric bags for free, providing they are returned on their next visit.

“There’s a really strong feeling for it (going plastic free) in the community,” said Bendigo Sustainability Group president Chris Weir. 

“People are becoming more aware that plastics end up in our waterways and our ocean – it does affect our sea life,” he said.

Plastic Free Bendigo, formed earlier this month, will negotiate with supermarkets, or operators of the supermarket venues – as some stores are leased – to place a container full of boomerang bags outside stores.

The action group is also in talks with the Department of Justice in Bendigo to acquire labour to make the bags with donated sewing machines. 

And it will shortly start collecting unused material that would otherwise be destined for landfill. 

The onus was on the public, through initiatives like these, to put pressure on the Victorian government to introduce legislation limiting the use of supermarket plastic bags, Mr Weir said.  

Victoria – along with NSW and Western Australia – has no legislation designed to “ban the bag”, despite a plethora of recent media commentary supporting the idea.

Australians use almost four billion plastic bags every year, which can take 1000 years to disintegrate. 

STITCH IN TIME: Boomerang Bags organisers in Castlemaine, Nellie Harris and Ginny Tan. Picture: CHRIS PEDLER

STITCH IN TIME: Boomerang Bags organisers in Castlemaine, Nellie Harris and Ginny Tan. Picture: CHRIS PEDLER

Almost 150 communities around the world have begun their own boomerang bags program since its inception in Burleigh Heads, Queensland, in 2013.

Volunteers for Boomerang Bags Castlemaine and Surrounds have been creating the fabric alternatives to the plastic carry bag for a few months, and plan to partner with Castlemaine businesses. 

And the Loddon Mallee Waste and Resource Recovery Group is working with businesses throughout Maldon to help the town become plastic bag free.

The group is hopeful of distributing recycled bag to businesses in Maldon by June 2017.

The City of Greater Bendigo supports a statewide ban on plastic bags, suggesting the reduction of single-use bags was already an action of the city’s Waste and Resource Management Strategy.

Bendigo Advertiser readers’ views on plastic bags were mixed last year, with 51 per cent responding ‘yes’ to the question, “Should Bendigo ban single-use plastic bags regardless of the Victorian government's decision?, while 44 per cent said ‘no’.

A state government inquiry into the Environment Protection Amendment, which is considering plastic bags, will release a final report next week.