The crafty bag ladies taking Titirangi plastic-free

  • 04/04/2018

Twenty home sewists and thousands of home-sewn bags are making a world of difference to the west Auckland suburb of Titirangi.

Love Titirangi is a community group sewing up a storm to make Titirangi plastic bag - and eventually plastic - free.

Using recycled fabrics, the group are sewing up thousands of 'boomerang bags' for the community - reusable shopping bags that can be borrowed at stores, and returned on shoppers' next visit.

Carolyn Keber is one of the group's most passionate creators.

She says she has always loved sewing, and in her retirement wants to give something back to the community she loves.

"Titirangi is fabulous. I've been a Westie since I was 20, and I've lived in this village for 25 years. I love the whole vibe of the small village."

The crafty bag ladies taking Titirangi plastic-free
Photo credit: Newshub.

Carolyn says she's "no hippie", but she believes in trying to help the environment.

"I'm not a hippie, I don't wear beads. But I hate plastic bags with a passion. They float around, they're on the north western cycleway, they're in the sea - they're absolutely awful things."

Love Titirangi coordinator Michelle Powles says the group was started by two women on a mission to get Titirangi plastic bag-free.

"We started out by making about 4000 bags - boomerang bags which people can borrow at a store, and bring back to drop-off centres around the village."

The boomerang bag concept began in Australia, and has since gone global.

"It's about communities reusing fabric, and then getting people together to sew bags that are able to be used over and over and over," says Michelle. "It's really reuse, reduce, recycle, without plastic even coming in to it."

The scheme launched in Titirangi in Plastic-Free July last year, and instantly had huge support from the community.

"You used to go into the village and every store would have them. Even if you were buying a tube of toothpaste, you'd end up leaving with a plastic bag.  But now most of the stores are not using plastic bags at all, and the supermarket has dropped their use by a huge percentage. They're now providing boomerang bags and offering boxes at the checkout.

"The next step for us is to look at coffee cups, and work out how we can reduce their use in our community."

Carolyn believes reducing our plastic use is about personal responsibility.

"I'm disappointed when I see people taking plastic bags," she says, "but Rome wasn't built in a day.

"You have the choice of whether you buy something or not. If the companies insist on using all that plastic, if the butcher wraps the ham in it, you can say no, I don't want the plastic, I won't buy it. It's up to us at the end of the day."

There are perfectly selfish reasons to cut your plastic bag use too of course.

"My cousin once went to the wine shop in Titirangi and bought two bottles of wine. He walked out, the bottles went through the bags, and they both broke. Now if he'd had a proper bag, that wouldn't have happened, and we would have got to enjoy his wine."

The lesson: everybody wins when you ditch the plastic.