From the 3rd of July 2014 (International plastic bag free day), Greyton aims to become South Africa’s first town to phase out single use plastic shopping bags. This is a drive initiated by Greyton Transition Town (GTT) and supported and assisted by Hayley McLellan from Rethink the Bag. This is just one of the many creative waste reduction programmes run in Greyton.
Green Home spoke with Nicola Vernon from the GTT about how they are going about becoming plastic bag free in their town.
How do you go about becoming free of the single use plastic shopping bag in your community? What steps are you taking?
We are being guided in this process by the Two Oceans Aquarium and their Senior Bird Keeper, Hayley McLellan who founded the movement Rethink the Bag. The first step was to find a suitable alternative to the plastic bag. We are able to purchase thousands of strong reusable bags made of parachute materials, with straps and a purse with heavy zip. The bag folds into the purse and can be placed in a handbag or pocket or attached to a belt with the clip. The cost of this bag is only R3 plus R1 for VAT and courier. The next step was to meet with the shop owners. It was crucial to get their buy in so Hayley came and made a presentation.
How did the presentation go? Was it easy to get buy in from the shops?
The presentation was very good. We introduced the bags and gave a free sample to each person. We took orders from the supermarkets to whom we sold the bags at cost price. We followed up by visiting the tills and talking to the cashiers and check out staff. In ten days we’ve sold over a thousand bags. We use social media – three Greyton facebook pages, plus our local tourism office database and the local newspaper to highlight the programme.
We’ve made stars out of shop owners doing well. One lady, who owns a fish and chip shop, walked straight out of the presentation and removed all plastic shopping bags from her premises. She explained to customers that for R5 they would be making an investment. As plastic bags cost 50c they would recoup their money after only ten shops, they can use the bag for all their shopping and would have a longlife bag beyond the ten shops.
Have you had much resistance?
There is some resistance. A few smaller shop owners will need encouragement. The larger outlets are on board, and are selling the longlife bags but more can be done at point of sale. We are planning a campaign leading up to a big event and carnival on July 3rd when the last plastic shopping bag is escorted out of Greyton, put in a plastic bottle with other waste and ceremoniously built into our outdoor classroom at the Green Park (the rehabilitated part of the Greyton dumpsite). The outdoor classroom is made of thousands of these eco-bricks and will be the first ecobrick construction in South Africa.
How will you keep the momentum going?
Our campaign will include trying to secure national press coverage so that locals are inspired as well as informed, continuing to distribute posters, leaflets and information on all media channels, events and promotions including:
- In each shop hiding a slip of paper in one of the long life bags that offers a special prize (we are looking for sponsorship for those prizes).
- Having a crazy character working behind the tills, in full costume (probably a penguin) to make customers laugh their way to buying a bag and stop using plastic ones.
- Having special workshops with incentives (free massage, facial etc) for the cashiers and check out operators.
- Half way progress report events where we meet with the shop keepers and discuss progress and how they feel we can go further.
Green Home would like to congratulate the Greyton Transition Town team and Hayley MacLellan’s team for such a thorough and determined plan to rid Greyton of the plastic bag and we look forward to hearing updates on the impact that the initiative has had on the pollution and the waste produced by the community.
Thanks to Green Home for the article