Dungog aims for six ticks and Blue Planet status

Dungog aims for six ticks and Blue Planet status

"They were still giving me plastic bags at the supermarket," Ms Williams said.

"There hadn't been a change over at that time to bags that were more than one use."

She took her concerns to Dungog local Michelle Dado-Millynn who, in February 2016, had already mobilised a small band of volunteers to fix the problem.

Brenda joined the group of locals who would go on to become the 20th town in Australia to adopt the Boomerang Bags model.

"It made a difference because of the people who were making the bags, the community that was donating the material, and the network that was formed," Ms Williams said.

"And it meant that I pulled my sewing machine out of the cupboard to sew again."

In two years, Boomerang Bags Dungog alone had created more than 5,000 items to replace everyday single-use plastic items.

There are now 500 groups in Australia, where the movement started, and 889 groups around the world.

Making 'excellent alternatives' to single-use products

Fran Crane was one of the first recruits whose imagination was inspired by the idea of solving a global problem by making something with their hands.

Ms Crane's pitch to customers at a stall in Dungog's main street this week was both passionate and compelling.

"I went to Japan earlier this year," Ms Crane said, unfolding a small handmade tote bag, made of coloured donated fabrics.

"I was able to use this cutlery tote on the aircraft. I took the metal utensils out and replaced them with reusable plastic cutlery.

"Practically every day while I was travelling, my daughter and I and my granddaughter used this. It was an excellent alternative."

Ms Dado-Millynn, who has long been concerned about the environment, saw how Boomerang Bags had taken hold and wondered 'why stop there'.

She started conversations with the council, the local supermarket, businesses, schools and other community groups.

"We've already got so much happening in this town with Reduce, Reuse, Recycle," she said.

"So, the next step naturally was to go single-use-plastic free."

This week Ms Dado-Millynn and her team of volunteers at Single Use Plastic Free Dungog, have launched an initiative that builds on the success of Boomerang Bags.

To get the community on board, she has devised a scheme where the shops, businesses and schools were able to participate in a public challenge to go single-use plastic free.

"The plastic bags, the single-use lightweight plastic bags, the takeaway coffee cups, the water bottles, the plastic straws, the plastic cutlery, and the plastic takeaway containers," she said.

"They're the six categories, and they're the challenges we're putting out there to everyone."

'Creating a better outcome for my 12-year-old son'

Cafe owner Stevie Parker has achieved what Single Use Plastic Free Dungog is calling Blue Planet status, ticking all six boxes in a checklist.

That means: no single-use plastic bags, no plastic straws, no plastic water bottles, no plastic cutlery, no plastic takeaway containers, and participation in a coffee cup recycling project.

"It's extremely important to me," Ms Parker said.

"I've got a 12-year-old son who I want to make sure has a better outcome than what we're leaving currently."

In a town that relies on visiting tourists, the issue of closing the loop around single-use coffee cups was always going to be a challenge.

But Michelle Dado-Millynn has got that covered as well, partnering with the council and scouring the country for a national solution.

That's where she found Closed Loop, a Melbourne-based company that appeared in the ABC's War On Waste.

"We're going to have, all around town, 15 collection sites and one in each surrounding town," Ms Dado-Millynn said.

"All you have to do is put the cup and the lid in the corresponding tube."

Dungog Shire Council has agreed to transport the sorted items to a service station chain that has an existing partnership with Closed Loop.

"From there it goes off, to be upcycled into a product that comes back into the community," Ms Dado-Millynn said.

"We've already got a pallet at the back of the council, of car park bump stops, and reusable cups — all sorts of products that come back into the community.

"That's circular economy, that's closed loop."

Dungog 'applauded for agreeing on solutions to waste'

Closed Loop head of marketing John Ryan said the people of Dungog had been 'fantastic and want to see real change'.

"They should be applauded for coming together as a whole community to educate themselves about what really happens with waste, and agreeing on solutions to deal with it," Mr Ryan said.

"Reuse is at the heart of what they are trying to achieve . . . and the council has been fantastic."

Single Use Plastic Free Dungog has set up a Facebook group where it hopes to share its experiences with other regional Australian towns.


SOURCE: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-07-03/dungog-drops-single-use-plastics-...