Bag It

Living Plastic Free in Shellharbour Village NSW June 2015

Shellharbour Village, Barrack Point, Shell Cove and Dunmore residents use more than 2.8 million plastic bags each year. Joined end to end they would reach Hervey Bay, Queensland in one year.

Where do these bags end up?

At what cost to the environment and to marine life? Plastics break down into tiny fragments that can contaminate our soil and water. When plastic bags get loose in our environment, they become the eyesore that we are all so familiar with, clinging to trees, marine life and littering our favourite beaches, harbours and waterways. NSW EPA statistics report that 10% of plastic bags end up as windblown litter.

The good news is that there is something we can do about this plastic pollution crisis. Shellharbour Council secured money under the EPA's Better Waste and Recycling Fund for education programs that promote and support waste avoidance and resource recovery. Inspired by the "Plastic Free July" movement staff set to planning how to make a village plastic free.

Project Management Plan

When developing a Project Management Plan to tackle this complex social, environmental and sustainable issue it was obvious that it had to be based on the understanding that people adopt new behaviours for their own reasons, and that we can work with those reasons rather than against them. The Waste Management Team have been working with Shop keepers throughout the Shellharbour Village to effectively reduce the use of plastic bags by introducing a procurement plan that supported the local business while achieving a theory of change, that Shellharbour Village is living plastic free.

To gain community awareness about plastic bag pollution, Council held a free movie screening of "Bag It: Is your life too plastic?" This was shown on Thursday 18 December at the Roo Theatre in Shellharbour Village inviting all residents from the area. Ninety one people attended and the night was supported by Red Kitchen a sustainable catering company from Port Kembla, entertaining street performers from Eaton Gorge Theatre Company and Tim Silverwood an Environmentalist from Take 3 also attended.

Tim Silverwood from Take 3 represented Council as our ambassador on the night to engage the community and provide answers to any questions providing an independent professional vision. Supported by evaluation surveys the movie night was a resounding success helping to educate the community and raising awareness on the needs to eradicate plastic bags.

Staff held meetings with Shellharbour Village Chamber of Commerce and local shop keepers to ascertain their individual plastic bag usage and developed opportunities to implement sustainable and cost effective alternatives.

Some of these opportunities included reusable bags, recycled paper bags to replace plastic bags. A window sticker for shops to display that showed their ongoing support. Ensuring that rental properties had information for visitors to the area about what they can expect during their stay in holiday season. Someone to help the shop keepers procure paper bags at a bulk rate to help small businesses and ongoing education and community awareness programs to support the program.

Paper bags suppliers were asked for quotations to supply four sizes of bags that ranged from mini, small, medium to large. Leisurecoast Hospitality and Packaging Company from Warilla provided a great price with free delivery straight to the shop keeper's door.

The first delivery containing 95,000 paper bags rolled out on Monday 23rd and Tuesday 24th June 2015. When shop keepers received their first delivery they also proudly posted a laminated sticker on their shop window which pledges to support the Living Plastic Free in Shellharbour Village Program.

Mayor Councillor Marianne Saliba said "this was the first of the roll-outs which she hoped would eventually reach out across the entire local government area and assist in a change of attitude towards plastic".

The program also includes an Exit Strategy that enables the group of shop keepers to continue with the Procurement Plan after the two year funding period. The strategy will enable the supplier to provide the paper bags at the maintained bulk rate where a guaranteed number of bags are supplied every year.

For residents and visitors that shop in the Shellharbour Village and realise that they have forgotten their shopping bag, they can take a reusable bag from the "Shellharbour Village Share Bag" container located outside the Shellharbour Newsagency. In addition if you have too many reusable bags you can donate them for other visitors to use. Another "Share Bag" container is planned for Addison Street closer to the foreshore and shop keepers can register their support to be a caretaker of the second container by contacting Waste Services on (02) 4221 6141.

Shellharbour Village Real Estate Agents and rental property managers will be invited to attend an information night hosted by Waste Services. The night will enable robust discussion about waste management opportunities during the holiday seasons which of course informs visitors about Living Plastic Free in Shellharbour Village.