Eastbourne residents going plastic free
May 27, 2019
A group of Eastbourne women are stitching their way towards making local small businesses plastic-free, winning a community award this year for their efforts in making reusable fabric bags.
Genevieve Packer and Mary Ryan founded their own branch of Boomerang Bags in 2017 to make reusable bags for people in the community to use and return.
Ryan said she just wanted to do something for the environment. “It’s been a passion of mine since I was a teenager.”
The pair launched the project in April 2018 and around 1000 bags have been made since. All the fabric is donated and upcycled, with local curtain manufacturers giving their off-cuts.
About 15 volunteers have helped over the years with a core group of about six. Packer and Ryan were recognised with an Eastbourne Community award earlier this year.
The bags gave Eastbourne residents an alternative to plastic before the single-use plastic bag ban. Ryan said it was great to be involved in a project that was making an impact.
“I’ve been going on about plastic since before the 1980s and now it’s getting traction. Climate change is the existential threat of our time, so let’s all do our bit.”
The bags are kept in wooden bins placed outside Eastbourne’s Four Square, library, delicatessen, and pharmacy.
The only problem is that often the bags are used but not returned, Ryan said. “We made them for the community but it’s not just a free bag. Each bag is worth about an hour of someone’s time and work. They’re for borrowing and bringing back.”
According to a survey of Eastbourne retailers, there had been about a 50 percent reduction in shoppers’ use of plastic bags since 2017.
Eastbourne librarian Annette Williams said kids used the bags for library books. “The kids love them, and we’d like to see more of the bags brought back. Some of them are absolutely gorgeous.”
Pharmacy assistant Douglas Kraushaar said the bin outside the pharmacy was “seldom full. I think they’re very popular – it’s a nice alternative for people who walk past and decide they want to buy something.”
The original Boomerang Bags started in Australia and are used in several countries around the world.