A global grassroots movement is combating plastic pollution and waste, while partnering with local groups like Achieve Australia’s social enterprise, The Sewing Basket, to spread an important message.
More than 10 million tonnes of fabric waste is generated globally each year and more than one million plastic bags are used every minute.
In 2013 Tania Potts and Jordyn de Boer, two friends based in Australia’s Gold Coast, set out to change this statistic. The answer was a global grassroots community movement known today as Boomerang Bags.
“Jordyn and I were doing work on plastic pollution in the ocean and we started thinking about what we could do with all the fabric going into landfill. Did you know it’s the second most polluting material in the world behind oil?” says Tania. “We wanted a project to help foster more sustainable behaviours in the community, something to go ‘beyond the bag’ as we like to say at Boomerang Bags.”
Today, more than 1,000 community sewing groups from around the world have joined the Boomerang Bags movement, transforming unused and unwanted fabrics into reusable bags. “It works because the concept is simple and easy enough for people to get involved in,” says Tania. “You can take part as one person or as an entire community.”
Once individuals or groups register with Boomerang Bags they are sent a free online toolkit with everything needed to get started. The kit includes bag patterns and a step-by-step guide to group coordination and bag distribution. Tania explains that groups become part of a global community and have a say in how they want to run their operations.
“We have a really welcoming Facebook group for Boomerang Bags where like-minded people from all over the world can connect and collaborate on their projects, get tips and ideas and swap stories,” says Tania.
“Once groups get started many choose to give the bags away for free, while others fundraise to assist with the running costs of the group or they might donate the money to charity,” she says.
More recently, Boomerang Bags groups have been lending their skills in times of crisis by distributing wildlife bags to social and environmental groups in Australia following widespread bushfires.
The Sewing Basket, which supplies donated fabrics and materials and provides employment for people with disability across three shops based in Sydney, has also been involved with Boomerang Bags.
“We donated some fabrics to Boomerang Bags which we couldn’t sell and started working together to sell bags,” says Pauline, Store Manager of The Sewing Basket’s Balmain shop. “The customers love the bags and some of our volunteers have now joined Boomerang Bags to expand their social circle and volunteering efforts.”
But it’s not only the environmental benefits of more than 450,000 Boomerang Bags and 165,000 kilos of waste diverted from landfill, there is also a positive social impact in connecting communities to one another.
“Being part of a group like Boomerang Bags helps combat loneliness and isolation in the community,” explains Tania. “With the support of the Queensland government we are starting to open up more conversations around mental health and the impact it has on our wellbeing and how belonging to a Boomerang Bags community supports mental wellness.”
Communities and individuals can be found making Boomerang Bags across 30 countries in Australia and New Zealand, North and South America, the Pacific, Europe and Asia.
For more information and to get involved, visit boomerangbags.org