Images supplied by Jordyn de Boer
Tell us about Boomerang Bags.
The idea is to tackle plastic pollution. It’s about getting the community together to make reusable schoolbags out of recycled material, which can then either be given away or made available in a drop off/pick up zone for free or they can be sold. But it’s really about getting people together, making bags and starting conversation about the issue. It’s really about creating awareness in a way that’s really engaging.
What does the name mean?
Well, because we started with the concept to borrow and bring back, like a Boomerang. That’s where the name came from.
How did you come up with the idea?
I was really passionate about plastic and plastic pollution. And I’d kind of been on a bit of a journey in my own life with reducing plastic in everyway that I could and wanted to do something to inspire others as well. I was introduced to Tania, who is the other co-founder, by a mutual friend. And we just started chatting and were thinking about what we could do here in Burleigh, because this is our local town and we thought we’d start with plastic bags, start small. And then we did some surveys of a few businesses and were looking into what the barrier is to why they weren’t using alternative to plastic and it usually came down to cost. Also the customers just don’t want to buy reusable bags. So we needed to come up with an option that is free, something that doesn’t cost businesses or the consumer and that’s where the bag share concept came from. And then the idea of making the bags out of recycled materials, that came from the sustainability point of view, cause we didn’t want to import anything from China. Using recycled materials was the best way to go and when we started doing that, we had about five people get together and start making bags. And we’d make 10 bags in a whole session! And we were like, this isn’t gonna work, we need more hands and then we put calls out and people started to donate materials and volunteering, so it’s kind of evolved.
Who makes the bags?
It’s volunteers from all walks of life. We have schools, universities, Country Women Association, just community members from different groups or plastic bag free campaigning groups that are already happening. Everyone really.
Did you have a personal negative experience with plastic that sparked you to create the bags?When I was a kid from about fourteen and a half I worked at Woolworths for six years. I was a check outchick. I was pretty aware even at that age, that it was a problem and seeing the scale of it, because there would be these trucks of plastic bags that get delivered, boxes of bags to the roof and I was like, this is insane, this is just one shop in one area, if you scale that up it’s just huge. And then I watched a movie called “Bag It” and that sort of went into the impacts of plastic bags and started me on a bit of a journey of trying to get rid of them. And then I had this moment once in the surf. I surf a lot, and I found this plastic bag floating in the water. I had a wetsuit on, so I was trying to stuff it into my wet suit, and I’m getting smashed around by waves while I was doing it and I was just getting really frustrated.
Is the health and safety of animals the main driving force behind Boomerang Bags?
Yeah we use that as a name. I guess everyone has a different motive, some people care about that and the images are quite visual, so it’s a really good way to get people’s attention. But it’s also the fact that plastic is made from oil and it’s a resource that we are using to make an item that we use for 12 minutes on average and then we throw it away. And it is just filling up our landfills, ending up in the ocean. It’s just not a necessary use of resources. As well as the health impacts because it’s full of toxic chemicals not good for humans or animals, so there are a lot of factors.
Do the Boomerang Bags generally come back, or do you find people tend to hang on to them?It’s mixed. So it works different in different areas, we get a lot of feedback especially in smaller communities, the bags seem to be shared around as we would like them to, but we also get feedback from people saying they have two or three bags in their car and they use them all the time. For us, that’s having just the same positive impact.
How are you promoting Boomerang Bags?
Mostly through Social media, websites, Instagram, just word of mouth is probably the biggest thing.
Do you have plans to make this a global initiative?
It’s kind of going that way, so we’ve got about 40 communities already started up in Australia. There are two in New Zealand, one in Norway and two in America, so it’s kind of getting there.
We’re not sure how they hear about us, but it’s pretty exciting.
Do you receive any profit from the bags?
No, so it’s all not-for-profit. We do fundraising and all the money just goes straight back into buying materials, paying for rent, buying tea, coffee and snacks for volunteers. It all goes back into the project.
I’ve seen that there are plastic free items on your website, how do you choose what’s gonna be sold on the list?
We are tackling the big five, which is plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic coffee cups, toothbrushes and straws. Those everyday items that are used that aren’t necessary. And there are alternatives for them. So that’s sort of what we are targeting.
Can you tell us about Mobile Hydration Stations?
That’s another initiative that comes off the side of Boomerang Bags and that’s about making events plastic water bottle free. It’s a hydration station that can be attached to the back of a trailer, attached to the water mains and it filters water making it cool as well. So that people have access to cold filtered water at events, so there is really no need for plastic bottles around.
Do they have their own cups then?
They are encouraged to bring their own bottles, we also sell Stainless Steel Bottles. And sometimes the event will have bottles or something available.
Since you don’t achieve any profit with the bags, do you have a second job?
Yeah, I do a few things. I was doing Environmental Science for a while, I also work in a local shop here in Burleigh. And there is a little bit of income that comes from Boomerang Bags through certain projects that we do, like the work for the dole program. But we are still working on means of fundraising so that we can get funds to pay for wages, because it is a big job.
Are you totally plastic free?
Probably about 90 percent. There are some things that are really hard to avoid, especially when you are travelling.
If you can’t get certain items that don’t come in plastic, things like toothpaste and stuff, if you are travelling. I try to make all the things myself from scratch, but if I’m out and about or travelling, it can be a bit hard sometimes.
If you make your own toothpaste, do you make shampoo and that kind of stuff?
Shampoo I haven’t quite mastered, but toothpaste and deodorant, I can make. I just try to make as much as I can from scratch and I buy in bulk.
Isn’t that time consuming?
It is, yeah. That’s the thing and that’s why plastic is popular. It’s convenient and that’s why we use it, cause we’re all kind of in this mad rush all the time. And it is just there and you don’t really think about it. But it’s actually a really satisfying think to do, to be able to have the time and put the time into making your own stuff from scratch. Knowing what goes into it and have control of that, cause when you go plastic free, you also realize that you are a lot healthier, because you’re avoiding all of the processed food. It’s an interesting journey.
Are you making any other environmental efforts?
I am actually working on a new program with some friends that’s about educating young kids. Educating them on getting back to nature, taking them out into natural areas like the rainforest. We’ve just had a couple of events and we are looking at crowdfunding to start up a bit of a retreat.
What’s it called?
Green Heroes. So there is a website for that too. It’s still all brand new, so there is not too much to report on yet, but it’s a new start up project.
What do you want people to know about Boomerang Bags and the environment?
About Boomerang Bags just get involved, because it’s a really valuable experience. Not only for the environment but socially, it’s a really positive thing that people can put their hands on and make a real difference. And in terms of the environment just that small changes make a big difference. And something as simple as cutting out plastic bags and plastic bottles and that goes a long way if collectively everyone is doing it. Not to get overwhelmed by the scale of the issue and just do it. Just do something, start wherever you can.
What’s your favourite coffee spot?
I don’t drink coffee. I do drink tea, I like the Woodbox café. I often use that space as an office.
Where do you recommend someone who’s visiting the Gold Coast to have dinner?
Greenhouse Café or Mandala or my house.
Where is your favourite spot to grab a cocktail?
What is your favourite outdoorsy spot?
Burleigh beach or the Currumbin Rock Pools.
What’s your favourite market?
I go to the Burleigh Heads Farmers Markets or the Miami Organic Farmers Markets, both are good.
By Marleigh Kelly