Greyton Aims to Phase Out Plastic Bags

plastic bag ban

From the 3 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 is supported and assisted by Hayley McLellan from Rethink the Bag. This is just one of the many creative waste reduction programmes running in Greyton.

We spoke to Nicola Vernon from the GTT.

What steps are being taken to make Greyton a single use plastic bag free town?

We are being guided in this process by the Two Oceans Aquarium and 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 material.  The bag folds into a purse and can be placed in a handbag or pocket alternatively attached by the clip to a belt.  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 shop owners?

The presentation was very good.  We introduced the bags and gave a complimentary sample to each person. We took orders from the supermarkets to which 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 sold over a thousand bags.  We used social media, plus our local tourism office database and the local newspaper to highlight the programme.

Immediately after the presentationthe owner of a fish and chip shop removed all plastic shopping bags from her premises.  She explained to customers that for R5 they would be making an investment since plastic bags cost 50c; customers would recoup their money after only ten shops.  In addition the bag can be used for all their shopping and would have a long-life bag beyond the ten shops.

Have you had much resistance?

There is some resistance. A few smaller shop owners will need ongoing encouragement.  The larger retailers are on board, and are selling the long-life bags.  We are planning a campaign leading up to the carnival on 3 July when the last plastic shopping bag is escorted out of Greyton, put into 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 ecobricks and will be the first ecobrick construction in South Africa.

How will you keep the momentum going?

Our campaign will include securing national media coverage so that locals are both inspired and informed, continuing to distribute posters, leaflets and information on all media channels, events and promotions including:

  1. 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).
  2. 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 the plastic ones.
  3. Hold special workshops with incentives (free massage, facial etc.) for the cashiers and check out staff.
  4. Mid-way progress report events where we meet with the shop keepers to discuss progress and how they feel we can go further.

We 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.