On Saturday, April 7, a crowd gathered outside the doors of Mullumbimby Woolworths. This time it was not to protest, as it was all those years ago, but to celebrate.
Earlier in the week, Woolworths announced that Mullumbimby was one of just 12 trial sites in the town that had ceased offering free, single-use plastic bags.
But Mullum Cares spokesperson Sasha Mainsbridge said the big corporate had gone further than expected, installing box bins, a reusable bag repository and a packing area for customers.
And the prominent display of thick plastic bags ‘for sale’ visible in so many stores was conspicuous by its absence.
Byron Mayor Simon Richardson officiated at the event, which took place outside the store, surrounded by families enraptured by special guests dirtgirl and Plastic Free Boy.
Ms Mainsbridge told Echonetdaily the event participants filled the store’s new reusable bag repository with spare bags they brought along.
She described it as ‘a simple idea that celebrates community self-reliance in addressing the pressing need to reduce waste’.
‘The celebration in Mullumbimby was primarily to celebrate the town’s exemplary appetite for sustainable change,’ she said.
‘Is there any other town with a plastic-bag free IGA and Woolies?/
Boxes instead of bags
Ms Mainsbridge said Mullum Cares had organised the #choose2reuse celebration to ‘highlight the elements that make Mullumbimby Woolworths stand out as a business determined to facilitate the true intention of the change to stem supply of plastic bags’.
‘The 15c thicker plastic bag option that most supermarkets provide within arm’s reach of the registers as the fall-back for customers who forget to BYO isn’t something the Mullumbimby community wanted to see.
‘To support this, the Mullumbimby Woolworths management team set about installing box bins (so customers could reuse the boxes that deliver produce to the store) and a packing table (like Aldi provide) and the new Community Bag Share asset is a simple concept: a crate with a sign inviting customers to ‘donate and borrow’ from the stock of reusable bags as another fall back option for customers who forget to BYO. There’s no sign of the 15c bags in the store. The community prefers reusable options.
‘The ACT and Tasmanian governments are currently reviewing the environmental impact of their legislation which specified that bags 30 micron thickness or less be banned, leaving retailers free to shift the supply to an income-generating, thicker plastic bag option.
‘Businesses, local and state governments are reeling at the implications of China’s reduced demand for our recyclable materials so the question is simple: why wouldn’t every major retailer make their boxes available for customers to reuse? Why wouldn’t they download and print the Community Bag Share sign and make a small space available for a bag share repository?’ Ms Mainsbridge said.