June 26 - July 2, 2016: Issue 269

 Avalon Boomerang Bags Launched: A Stitch In Time To Save Your Seas And All In Them

Picture (l to r): Hon. Rob Stokes, MP for Pittwater and NSW Minister for Planning, Former Deputy Mayor of Pittwater, Kylie Ferguson, current  Deputy Chair  of IAG - Implementation Advisory Group and the Chair of Environment for Northern Beaches Council and Laurel Wood and Kirsty Giles: the ladies heading up Avalon Boomerang Bags - A J Guesdon photo.

A day that has been worked towards for 18 months by a small team of persistent and talented volunteers culminated in the launching of Avalon Boomerang Bags on Saturday June 25th, 2016.

Boomerang Bags is a bag-share initiative involving the installation of a number of ‘Boomerang Bag’ boxes throughout any given business district, shopping centre, street or market. Each box is stocked with re-useable bags for customers to borrow if they have forgotten to bring their own.

Unlike the traditional purchase-and-keep approach, Boomerang Bags are free, and local community members are responsible for returning the bags once they’re no longer required. The availability of free re-useable bags reduces the reliance of local businesses to supply bags to all customers, and encourages a mentality of re-use among local communities, thereby reducing the amount of plastic bag material entering our landfills and waterways.

For those who have been picking up plastic rubbish from our beaches, ocean, creeks and estuary for decades, growing ever more distressed hat this may be a tide we will drown in, the option to do otherwise, and keep doing otherwise by NOT using plastic bags, comes as news long awaited. 

Laurel Wood and Kirsty Giles, the ladies leading the team who have brought the establishment of Boomerang Bags to Avalon, were on hand in the village yesterday.

Laurel Wood addressed the crowd gathered, stating
“First of all I want to personally thank The Surfrider Foundation and Living Ocean for being instrumental in introducing the concept of Boomerang Bags to this community. Secondly I would like to thank the Northern Beaches Council for providing us with a room in the Avalon Recreation Centre and their ongoing support, particularly their wonderful staff who have actually taken this to their hearts as well. Thirdly to Rob Stokes for consistently supporting us, even providing cloth bags to turn into Boomerang Bags.

Finally, and most importantly, I would like to thank all of our wonderful volunteers and all of the local business and business chamber who have contributed your time, your material, in whatever capacity over the past 18 months we have been working towards today. Our weekly workshops, sewing bees in homes, attending stalls at fetes and community events, spreading the word via Facebook, emails, building the boxes, cutting, ironing, stamping bags: the list is a very long one. I’m so very proud of the way the volunteers have taken charge and ownership of this initiative[; without your collective effort none of this would be here today.

“To the Avalon community gathered here today, thank you for your interest and please note, The Bag is Now In Your Court!”

Laurel attributed this phrase to her dear husband, stating she could not take credit for that one but expressed a passionate wish that everyone adopt the concept, use the bags and say No, to plastic bags when these are offered. 

“Please do not store them in the boot of your car or horde them in your kitchen, these are a community form of boomerang and a community asset. Bring them back, let’s keep these boxes at least half full. “

The Honourable Rob Stokes, MP for Pittwater the Planning Minister for NSW invited to say a few words, thanked Laurel, Kirtsy, all the Boomerang Bag volunteers, Living Ocean and the Surfrider Foundation on behalf of the Pittwater community and the New South Wales government for bringing the concept of a community based recycling scheme to the Avalon. Mr. Stokes stated it was truly encouraging to see how a grass roots based group can contribute to looking after our environment at a local level. 

“To put some statistics to this, I understand that already, across the East Coast of Australia, Boomerang Bags has displaced around 7.5 million tonnes of plastic from our environment and the equivalent of almost 24 thousand Boomerang Bags have displaced around 11.8 million plastic bags.” The Member for Pittwater stated, and was interrupted by applause.

“When you consider that the plastic bags are an imported petroleum based product, that when they break down in the marine environment into micro plastics this ultimately falls down the food chain, the way the molecular structure of these plastics works means they actually attract and combine with toxins that are then ingested by molluscs that are consequently ingested by other small sea creatures, this ends up in our own food chain and poisoning us.  

"There are very real health and environmental reasons why we need to wean ourselves off the plastics and this is a very practical way in which we can do that. this is why the New South Wales government has moved towards a ban on microbeads in cosmetic products, where there is still more work to be done. We are leading  work on the phase out of lightweight plastic bags nationally and we have also committed to introducing a container deposit scheme by the 2017 financial year. Hopefully the other Eastern seaboard states can join us so that where this currently operates in the Northern Territory and South Australia can become a national scheme with the Western Australians joining us as well.

There is a real Sea Change coming in terms of our treatment of resources and this, local practical example will have huge consequences as more and more people realise that our local decisions can make an incredible difference. It is grass roots change that ultimately directs where our nation goes so you are all an amazing example of what a little community acting together can achieve.”

Mr. Stokes finished in singling out Laurel and Kirsty in particular for their work in making Boomerang Bags in Avalon a reality, along with the Avalon Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce and all the local businesses who have donated products and support to this initiative.

The list there, as Laurel Woods indicated, is very long. An abridged indication collected during the past several months is: Avalon Boomerang Bags, their team of sewers, box makers, have had their scissors sharpened by Michael Crosby of CODMAC Engineering, wood at cost for the boxes was supplied by Johnson Brothers Hardware, Hertfort’s, Melanie Colling, Carolin Long from Australian Pacific College, Manly Council, from Peace Yoga Love have donated scores of bags in everything from calico to hemp to be ‘Boomeranged’, two Duke of Edinburgh award candidates doing their community service joined in the Tuesday workshops, films, fundraisers, manning stalls in Pittwater or at Manly has all been part of the process.

At Launch there are 7 boxes placed throughout the Avalon, filled with Boomerang Bags which are available to ‘borrow and bring back’ as a sustainable alternative to plastic bags.

The short addresses delivered were preceded by an overview of MC for the event, Kylie Ferguson, formerly the Deputy –Mayor of Pittwater Council, who is .

The wonderfully articulate Christina Stewart, a member of The Big Sing community choir provided lyrics to the tune of ‘Sing, sing a Song’  as captured on video by another great Avalon Boomerang Bags volunteer and supporter, Rowan Hanley.
Living Ocean Members - founded in Whale Beach to promote the awareness of human impact on the ocean, through research, education, creative activity in the community, and support of others who sustain ocean health and integrity - BIG Supporters of Avalon Boomerang Bags through their No Plastic Please Campaign - an ongoing initiative to ride us of everything plastic, from drinking bottles to bags to straws...
Surfrider Foundation members Brendan Donohoe (middle) with Jesse and Rowan Hanley - who organised a Beach Clean Up prior to the launch - collecting Buckets of plastics (mainly bottles!) and other rubbish with a team of volunteers
Cedar and Jemima - part of the beach clean prior to the launch of Avalon Boomerang Bags
The Big Sing!

Report and pictures by A J Guesdon,  2016.  Photos for those who want them for their own Family Albums HERE