Boomerang Bags (BBs) is a global community organisation making reusable bags from waste fabric to replace single use plastic bags. Started in Australia in 2013, there are now 1100 registered BB communities worldwide, with 40 in the UK.
Their aims and methods
BBs master plan is to cut out all single use plastic bags through their communities redirecting waste fabric from the clothing industry and making reusable bags.
They are achieving these goals with a super simple “Boomerang Bags” product toolkit for a reusable bag made from fabric that would otherwise be thrown out
Based on their experience they provide an organisation structure with branding, standards and guidelines for local BB communities to adopt.
These communities are run by volunteers and the bags are free to customers.
The environment problems addressed
The problem with all plastics, but in particular single use plastic items such as bags and bottles, is that it hangs around for many centuries and as it breaks down it becomes toxic to wildlife and humans. The issues with cloth is there’s just so much of it ending up in landfill and its manufacture is extremely heavy on water and carbon emissions.
• Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year… • 1.13 million tonnes of clothing was purchased in the UK in 2016
Single use plastic global figures
• At least 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year…
• Marine species ingest or are entangled by plastic debris…
• Plastic pollution threatens food safety and quality, human health, coastal tourism…
(Source: The International Union for Conservation of Nature https://www.iucn.org/ )
Clothing industry UK figures
• The carbon footprint of clothing in use in the UK was 26.2 million tonnes CO2e in 2016
• 1kg of cotton is created using an average of 10,000-20,000 litres of water
• 800,000 tonnes of process waste from the UK clothing demand
(Source: WRAP – Waste & Resource Action Plan http://www.wrap.org.uk/ )
• Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year…
• 1.13 million tonnes of clothing was purchased in the UK in 2016
Boomerang Bags are now in Surrey
Thames Ditton Boomerang Bags came into being in 2017. And it is the first High Street in the UK to introduce the concept, encouraging high street shops, to give them out instead of single use plastic bags.
So far 8 shops and the local food bank have joined the scheme.
The BB organisers estimate that every Boomerang Bag is reused around 700 times during its lifetime. So far Thames Ditton have made and distributed 3,215 of them, so if their assumptions are correct, this represents 2 ¼ million plastic bags saved in the future.
3 new BB communities have started up in Molesey, Claygate and Hersham, and there are 2 more in discussion
Making the Thames Ditton BBs is no mean feat. First of all there are the roles to consider: washing, sewing, cutting, ironing and very importantly tea making.
Sewing bees are made up of the retired, working and children. Brownies & Guides do their bit learning skills and earning badges along the way.
Local schools play their part too with Thames Ditton Junior School Year 6, Hinchley Wood School Year 9 pre-GCSE coming on board
Logistics & kit
Donated sewing machines and plenty of fabric cut offs and cast offs make their way to the teams
Happy Thames Ditton BB Customers are the High Street shoppers and Food Banks. Health & safety is ensured by quarantining all bags and materials for 72 hours and also laundering if required.
Tricia Bland, BB organiser in Thames Ditton, says the community has benefited and been brought together by this initiative. They have battled on through Covid and words such as “good spirits, feeling useful and being needed, helping each other, educating people and learning new skills” are how the volunteers express their gratitude for the initiative.