July 13th 2009
Change comes in a bag
How often have you visited the supermarket but forgot to bring your environmentally-friendly, reusable shopping bag? You were coming home from work and just dropped in for some essential tid-bits and, before you know it, you are walking out the door with another plastic shopping bag - the type the world's ocean's are choking on, that kill turtles and filled the stomach and killed poor old Whitey the croc, captured on Magnetic Island not so long ago. Well, now, it looks like change is afoot.
The Foodworks Community Supermarket at Nelly Bay, last week, introduced a new approach to recycled bag shopping and other Island businesses are changing their ways too.
Foodworks' Proprietor, Brian Page, has placed, outside the shop's door, a large tropically painted, wheely bin, which, instead of receiving rubbish, provides Islanders with an opportunity to pick up a re-useable shopping bag and return it, along with their other spares, at a later date.
Brian told Magnetic Times, “My customers were telling me to get rid of them (plastic shopping bags) and on the Island the green side is quite heavy. They'd ask 'why not be the first?” and I thought, why not! I can do this. There's far too much plastic going into the water.”
And while Brian is excited about his initiative the idea has been trialled, in a different form, at Butler's Pantry in Arcadia about 18 months ago. They gave away about 150 of the reusable bags and are encouraging customers to use them while charging 5 cents for their plastic bags which are now biodegradable.
“It would be great to see the school fete as a dropping-off point for the reusable bags,” said Butler's Julie Carmody who worked in the recycling industry for seven years.
Julie would like to see all shops which use plastic bags to stop. “If we all agree 100 per cent then definitely that's the way to go.”
The Magnetic Island State School Fete (Saturday 22 August) may well play a pivotal role in changing Magnetic Island residents' behaviour. Brian Page is donating 500 reusable bags to help his customers towards better shopping habits, which will be for sale at $1 each with proceeds to the school.
Brian sees the customer education process as ongoing. He's focussing on getting locals into the habit of bringing their spare reusable bags. Staff will be asking locals, “Do you have your reusable bag?” and, if not, they are made aware of the bag bin outside the front door from which they can take a free bag. Then they are asked to bring as many back as possible for the bin next time.
From today, Brian will also be adding a 5 cent charge onto all the plastic bags used. He believes that when freight and space is factored into the price, each plastic bag presently costs him about 10 cents each.
“It's a matter of getting people into the habit,” says Brian who is also very impressed that one of his staff, Doug Beale, was able to paint a tropical beach scene onto the wheely bin provided to the shop by Townsville City Council with help from Island representative, Trevor Roberts.
As for reactions so far, Brain says, “locals think it's wonderful. They don't have to remember every day to bring their environmental bags every time.”
The idea is clearly being considered in many stores. Dale Brooker from Nelly Bay Fish 'n' Fuel told Magnetic Times, “Brian has a really good approach. At first I think it will go down the barrel but people will get trained.”
Dale is also keen to go plastic bag free and is looking to find an alternative to plastic bait bags in particular. He is worried at the number of fishers' plastic bags which presently blow off the Picnic Bay Jetty.
Interestingly, when a documentary screened on TV last year, about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch: a 100 million tonne plus, vortex of swirling, mostly plastic, rubbish which floats in a North Pacific ocean area over twice the size of Texas, Brian noticed a drop in the number of bags being taken up by customers at the shop drop by 4500 per week. “And that's held up well with locals since,” he said.
The problem of keeping the reusable bags clean is another factor being considered. Julie Carmody said, “With so much fresh produce, contamination is a problem, so we have to check bag's contents.”
Mr Armi Bhela, Manager from Magnetic Harbour IGA, is less optimistic about the reusable bag approach. “We tried recycle bags and gave away 10,000 over the last couple of years. I don't know where they are going. We are lucky to see 10 percent of our customers coming back with them.
According to Armi, IGA are presently moving towards the adoption of a recycled paper bag which he expects will be adopted by IGA stores nationwide.
Horseshoe Bay Foodworks as proprietor, Zara Frost was unavailable for comment.
Story & photo: George Hirst
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