Bag It Raglan seeks help to sew free reusable bags for the community

Two Raglan women are doing their bit to eradicate the use of plastic shopping bags in Raglan – and they want your help.

Victoria Beeby and Di Jennings have started the Bag It Raglan sewing group, and to date its volunteers have made about 80 reusable and brightly-coloured cloth bags to go out into the community, free of charge.

The sewing group, which is supported by Plastic Bag Free Raglan, started on June 1, initially getting together once a fortnight to churn out the homemade bags. There is a big push this month, in conjunction with Plastic Free July, with seven four-hour sewing sessions scheduled to take place in the Supper Room of the Raglan Town Hall.

Victoria said the sewing group, which provides machines and materials to make the bags, was in need of some more helping hands.

“You don’t even have to know how to sew,” she said.

There is plenty of cutting and ironing that can be done, or making cups of tea.

Victoria first started making bags from home, alone, after getting bombarded with information online about how terribly the earth was being treated by the human race.

“I was so upset, overwhelmed.”

So, she decided to do something good for the environment, something small, a reusable bag, and gifted her wares to Whaingaroa Organic Kai and the Herbal Dispensary for customers to use.

June Penn, part of the Plastic Bag Free Raglan team and Whaingaroa Environment Centre, said she approached Victoria about her bag making and invited her to help get single-use plastic shopping bags out of Raglan for good.

“It’s so much bigger and better than what I could have done on my own,” said Victoria.

The Plastic Bag Free Raglan initiative aims to make Raglan plastic bag free by July 2017, paid for eight sewing machines for the sewing group, and Di, a former fashion designer, was keen to come on board as the No. 2 of the Bag It Raglan sewing venture.

The bags are available for free from the Whaingaroa Environment Centre.

“This is one of the solutions we are able to provided for free for the community.”

Plastic Bag Free Raglan (PBFR) is working with local businesses to encourage them to provide a sustainble alternative to single-use plastic bags. The PBFR team has been busy researching and testing possible solutions to present to businesses and the community.

“If the community refuses single-use plastic bags, businesses will respond,” she said.

Of 332 community members that responded to a survey in May, 93 percent said they would support a plastic shopping bag free Raglan.

Ninety Raglan businesses out of 113 responded to a similar survey.

June said 59 percent of the businesses that currently provide bags of some sort said they would support a plastic bag free initiative.

“It’s encouraging.”

Raglan consumers use 20,000 single-use plastic shopping bags per week in the five months of summer.

Scientists estimate that every square mile of ocean contains about 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. Single use plastic shopping bags pose a major threat to waterways and oceans, polluting beaches and harming marine life.

“We don’t need plastic bags, it’s a behaviour,” said June. Banning plastic bags was “a big mindset change, a habit change”.

“We can make a difference at community level,” said Di.

“And other people might look at what Raglan is up to and say we are going to do that, too.”

The three women want plastic-free to be a part of Raglan’s brand: Raglan by the Sea, a sea free of plastic.

Inger Vos

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