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Whaingaroa Environment Centre hands over the evolution of Plastic Bag Free Raglan to Xtreme Zero Waste

After nurturing, coordinating and funding the Plastic Bag Free Raglan Project for two years, the Whaingaroa Environment Centre (WEC) is handing over the reigns to Xtreme Zero Waste, who will add Plastic Bag Free Raglan to their ongoing efforts of reducing other single-use waste throughout Whaingaroa.

Plastic Bag Free Raglan (PBFR) launched in 2016 and has been driven by a steering committee made up of members from the Whaingaroa Environment Centre, Xtreme Zero Waste (XZW), the Raglan Chamber of Commerce, Para Kore and the Raglan Community Board.

WEC has been the acting umbrella organisation for the project, gaining funding, hiring staff and being the physical home for PBFR as it was rolled out into the Whaingaroa community. WEC is proud to have lead this project for the benefit of the beautiful environment and the community’s health and would like to acknowledge the community and businesses who have gotten behind the project.

When Plastic Bag Free Raglan was first initiated, a business survey and community survey were circulated to help the steering committee gain a better understanding of the amount of plastic bags that were being used. It was found that 20,000 single-use plastic bags were going out the door of Whaingaroa businesses throughout the community each week.

With this high number to motivate the project, Plastic Bag Free Raglan set out to shift Whaingaroa into a single-use plastic bag free community by July 2019.

The steering committee appointed a small team of three personnel to drive the project forward. This included June Penn as Project Manager, Lisa Schill as Sustainability Coordinator and Karamea Puriri as Marketing Manager. The three were later joined by Valerie Bianchi who assisted with the Business Accreditation Programme.

This core team, along with WEC staff and volunteers, worked diligently to get Plastic Bag Free Raglan off the ground, quickly inspiring residents and visitors to remember their reusable bags, while laying out a pathway to achieving the long-term goal of becoming a single-use plastic bag free community.

Since its inception, Plastic Bag Free Raglan has hosted various community events, including moving screenings, such as Bag It and the recently released film A Plastic Ocean along with many pop-up community education events.

Plastic Bag Free Raglan worked with Victoria Beeby and Di Jennings to create Bag It Raglan, which officially kicked off in July 2016. Bag It Raglan became a community driven initiative with Victoria, Di and local volunteers coming together to sew reusable bags that were distributed free of charge for local residents. WEC has been the home for the sewing machines and provided admin support for the volunteers and a place to source the bags.

Bag It Raglan went above and beyond, hosting sewing sessions with local schools and various community groups. Bag It Raglan has successfully made and handed out over 1,500 reusable shopping bags. Although Bag It Raglan recently ceased operating as a community sewing group, and the Bag It ladies are extending creatively, morphing into the Raglan Upcycling Co-op https://www.facebook.com/raglanupcyclingcoop/.

Working alongside Xtreme Zero Waste and their Educational Superheros, Matua X and Lady X, the message of Plastic Bag Free Raglan has been incorporated into the Zero Waste Education programme which is delivered to Waikato and Waipa District Early Childhood, Primary and High Schools.

At the end of 2016 with support from Meridian Energy, Waikato District Council and Waikato Regional Council, Plastic Bag Free Raglan was able to distribute 2,500 reusable jute bags to households throughout the community, as a koha and encouragement for community members to take a reusable bag with them when heading out to the shops.

In April of 2017, the PBFR Business Accreditation Programme was launched, which assists businesses in becoming single-use plastic bag free. Since the launch of the programme, 84% of businesses throughout the community have become ‘PBFR Certified’, which means they support a single-use plastic bag free community and no longer provide single-use plastic carry bags. Certified businesses provide a sustainable alternative such as paper bags, boxes or compostable bags.

As a result of the Accreditation Programme, there has been a 95% reduction in the amount of single-use plastic bags going out into the Whaingaroa community. The team are confident that 100% of Whaingaroa businesses can be single-use plastic bag free by July 2019.

In line with the International Annual event, Plastic Free July, Plastic Bag Free Raglan unveiled a ‘billboard’ sign on the main street at the beginning of July 2017, as a friendly reminder to shoppers to ‘remember your reusable bag’. The sign was funded by Meridian Energy and showcases a beautiful photograph of an orca in the Raglan harbour, taken by Jwan Milek. It was installed by D Signs with approval of Andreas Broring and Raglan Coconut Yoghurt.

In September of 2017, the Raglan Chamber of Commerce was asked to present the Plastic Bag Free Raglan project at the 10th World Chambers Congress, held in Sydney. Karamea Puriri represented the Raglan Chamber at the Congress and presented the project during the Sustainability Plenary. The presentation was warmly received and applauded by Chamber leaders from around the world.

As of March 2018, the next evolution and direction of Plastic Bag Free Raglan has been handed over to Xtreme Zero Waste, and welcomes local volunteers Amanda Moxey and Leanne Steel who will work with Xtreme to keep the project up and running and continue working with local businesses and the community to further the message of ‘single-use plastic bag free’.

The steering committee would like to give a very warm thank you to June, Karamea, Lisa, Val and the Whaingaroa Environment Centre for helping this project get off the ground, as well as the many volunteers who assisted the PBFR team with many hours of diligent work to see Plastic Bag Free Raglan become a reality.

If you are interested in finding out more about the project please contact the new team at plasticbagfreeraglan@gmail.com.