The town of Chillingham, located in northern New South Wales (NSW), Australia, is now the first Plastic Bag Free Village of Northern NSW. The small village plans to make a big impact on the environment. Eliminating plastic bags in the village will stop about 10,000 plastic bags yearly from going into local landfills or into the environment.
A popular rest spot for weekend travelers, Chillingham is in the Tweed Shire Council. The Council decided in 2009 to investigate options for reducing plastic bags in the Tweed. The Council also paid for 3500 reusable bags and helped with production of the bags.
Community and Council Partnership
The entire community, along with retailers of Chillingham, worked with Tweed Shire Council to implement the plastic bag ban. Shop owner, Buck Buchanan stated, "It's the sort of thing any village can do. Making the shift to reusable bags isn't as hard as many retailers make out." Buchanan owns Banana Cabana and Bush Tucker Garden in Chillingham.
Chillingham Public School students joined the community at local Chillingham shops on June 1st to receive their free reusable bags. Two counsellors from the Tweed Shire Council, Katie Milne and Dot Holdom, were on hand to help give out the new bags. See pictures of the event by clicking Chillingham Public Schools.
Why Not Calico?
The reusable bags are made of recycled polyethylene. The Tweed Shire Council chose not to use calico bags for several reasons. The Council released this statement titled, Why not Calico?
- It takes about 20 times more energy to grow the cotton for a calico bag than it does to produce a recycled polyethylene (RPET) bag.
- RPET is sourced from post consumer recyclables such as soft drink bottles and is able to be recycled again and again in the domestic waste stream.
- Cotton is a very water hungry crop. It takes an average of 10500 litres of water to grow 1kg of cotton.
- Cotton uses more pesticides than any other crop, perhaps except tobacco. While organic cotton uses no pesticides, its water consumption is still extremely high.
- Purchasing products with 100% recycled content helps to close the loop on recycling and reduce the amount of these resources ending up in landfill.
- RPET bags may look like the supermarket ‘green’ bag, but they aren’t. RPET bags are machine washable, but if they do break, they can be recycled by placing them into your yellow lidded recycling bin.
Model for other Villages
Council intends for the Chillingham Plastic Bag Free project to become a model for other towns and villages. Mayor of the Tweed, Counsellor Warren Polglase stated, "Eliminating single-use plastic check-out bags complements the community's efforts to improve village sustainability. It's just another step in Chillingham's journey to create an environmentally responsible and economically resilient community."
Although Chillingham is the first village in NSW to ban plastic bags, many people are calling for a national ban throughout Australia. Other states, including NSW are also working towards a phase-out or reduction in plastic bag use.
South Australia was the first to ban single-use polyethylene bags on 4 May, 2009. These moves are the result of a five-year national campaign for the eradication of single use plastic check-out bags. It is also part of an international push to reduce the hundreds of billions of plastic bags that get used globally every year.
Photo: Courtesy Tweed Shire Council