Ladies have recycling "in the bag"

Small steps to solve big plastic problem - Try this pattern to make your own fabric shopping bag

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SAVING THE PLANET ONE BAG AT A TIME: Kingston SE Small Steps members (L-R Top) Kerrie Bell, Margaret Rodgers, Phyllis Zwar, Elaine Starega. (Bottom) Charmaine Williams, Sandie Elsden, Liz Wingard, Phyllis Zwar, Margaret Nankivell and Mary Banks.

SAVING THE PLANET ONE BAG AT A TIME: Kingston SE Small Steps members (L-R Top) Kerrie Bell, Margaret Rodgers, Phyllis Zwar, Elaine Starega. (Bottom) Charmaine Williams, Sandie Elsden, Liz Wingard, Phyllis Zwar, Margaret Nankivell and Mary Banks.

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Kingston SE Small Steps makes upcycled fabric bags which shops give away free to customers.

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In the small,charming South Australian coastal town of Kingston SE there's a flourishing community of older "bag" ladies.

Every Monday the mostly retired ladies get together for a chin wag, a cuppa and to do their bit to save the environment by making upcycled fabric shopping bags which they give to shops in town to give away free to customers.

In two years Kingston SE Small Steps has made more than 14,000 reusable shopping bags and 8000 produce bags in an effort to reduce plastic bag use in their town.

The 15 environmentally-minded volunteers make the upcycled bags out of donated materials such as curtains, pillowcases, sheets and doona covers as well as upholstery fabric scraps and samples. While some volunteers sew, others cut, turn handles, cut threads, or iron.

The group is never short of donated fabric and local organisations and individuals have also donated sewing machines and an overlocker.

The project has been so successful that local supermarkets have reported a huge reduction in the number of multi-use plastic bags being bought. Single use plastic bags have already been phased out in the state.

Project facilitator, retired teacher Liz Wingard said that while the members got together on a Monday, some continued to make bags at home during the rest of the week.

"We're found we've become much more than just a sewing group we're also now a social group."

The average age of the Small Steps members is 79 with some in their 90s.

Living in a coastal town the ladies are also particularly keen on ensuring plastic waste doesn't make its way into rivers and the ocean.

However, Small Steps has found many people forget to take the fabric bags out shopping with them to the shops, so get another one and end up with a stash in a cupboard at home.

So now there is "amnesty" on the shopping bags. Locals can return them and the volunteers will wash them and send them back out for shops to give away again.

Some shopping bags are taken out of town by visitors and that also helps spread the anti-plastic bag message.

We never thought we would be making this many - it kind of got out of hand," said Liz.

Donation tins are left at the participating shops with shoppers invited to give a gold coin donation. All monies raised go to community projects.

Small Steps is also hoping to start making bunting from recycled fabrics to replace balloons and other traditional plastic decorations and plan to ask the council to purchase a plastic shredder that would allow coloured plastic bottles to be melted down and used to create new products.

If you would like to donate to or join Kingston SE Small Steps, email: kingstonsesmallsteps@gmail.com

The ladies of Small Steps have kindly agreed to share their shopping bag pattern with readers of The Senior. Click HERE to see the pattern.

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