Recycled bags are 'boomeranging' to help environment

Hard at work at "sociable guerrilla bagging" in Bangalow are (left to right) Tom Lockhart, Zoey Hopkins, Mahalia Taal, Erin Wes
Hard at work at "sociable guerrilla bagging" in Bangalow are (left to right) Tom Lockhart, Zoey Hopkins, Mahalia Taal, Erin Wes

In Bangalow there's a whirr of sewing machines all hard at work creating beautiful bags, and the surprising thing is that it's not women, but teenagers, both boys and girls, bent over fabric and thread, with background sounds of something heavy and metal spurring them on.

During school holidays it's the junior arm of Boomerang Bags, formed in March by local women Jo Immig and Clare Hopkins, that is out to do its bit to save the environment by making cloth bags out of recycled material.

Boomerang Bags came about after Clare, idly surfing the net one night, came across a site created 12 months earlier by an Englishwoman driven to action after the news that a minke whale washed up was found to have died of starvation because of plastic bags in her stomach.

There are now 550 "pods" around the world creating plastic bag substitutes, with Boomerang Bags, one of the pods, proud to have so far sewn 188 bags in their group sewing circle.

The colourful bags are created entirely from old clothes, curtains and tablecloths donated by the Bangalow Anglican Op Shop, items they cannot sell because of stains or tears and which they would otherwise have to pay to have taken to fill up the tip as landfill.

So the Op Shop is saved some of the trouble and expense of rubbish removal (on average two trailer loads each week) while the team simply cuts around the tears and stains to create a bag which they then hand out for free to startled locals.

But while their sewing circle is a sociable time of great conversation with tea and cake over the bag making, they have a very serious purpose.

"Jo and I decided to make Bangalow the first plastic bag-free zone in the Northern Rivers by the end of 2009," said Clare.

"We want to have discussions with the shopkeepers to talk about options.

"There won't be any one solution, but we've decided recycled bags made locally are the cr?me de la cr?me."

Besides meeting regularly to make bags, additional activities are boomeranging out in all directions, with Jo and Clare to demonstrate the making of the bags to young people at the Byron Youth Activity Centre learning to sew on industrial machines as well as to people with disabilities and their carers at Ocean Shores. They extend a warm welcome to anyone wanting to come along to sew and cut out, and especially to anyone wanting to learn the process to go off and set up a "pod" of their own.

Contact boomerangbags for further information, and to learn about the original idea go to

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