Volunteers hope cloth grocery bags boomerang back to bin

Locals set to meet to craft more bags on Feb. 6 at the community centre

The volunteers with Boomerang Bags Pemberton made around 1,000 reusable cloth grocery bags since the initiative started last February.

While the community has been enthusiastic about the project, there’s been one problem — the bags aren’t living up their name and “boomeranging” back into the bin at the Pemberton Valley Supermarket.

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“At this moment I’m a little frustrated because we’ve been dumping so many bags in there and I don’t understand how it’s empty,” said Frances Dickinson, who started the local initiative. “I think there might be an overall confusion about the nature of the project.

These bags are meant for grocery shopping. Their main intention is to reduce or (ultimately) eliminate the need for bags when grocery shopping. They’re not for beach towels to take to the lake one day or to take lunch to work.”

The concept behind the Boomerang Bag initiative — which started in Australia five years ago — is to take cast-off fabric and turn it into reusable grocery bags that shoppers use when they’re at the grocery store without their own cloth bag — and return as quickly as possible so shoppers can use them.

Dickinson isn’t sure if the bags are stockpiled in people’s homes and will eventually make their way back to the bin or if people have snagged the bags with no intention of returning them. “Another thing I’ve thought about is Pemberton is roughly at 5,000 people within its whole area. Maybe we really need to make 3,000 bags,” she said. “If we could bring the bag number up, maybe that’s what it takes to keep the bin filled.”

To that end, a group of volunteers have been getting together once a month for the last year to create the bags out of donated old fabric that ranges from Whistler Blackcomb Ski School pinnies to old curtains and bed sheets. “To me, I love that idea, that it’s… reducing the waste that’s going into the garbage,” Dickinson said.

(She’s currently not accepting any more donated fabric until they work their way through what they already have.)

Thanks to a grant through Pemberton Valley Utilities & Services (PVUS), the group has been able to host their monthly gatherings at the Pemberton & District Community Centre. Generally anywhere from six to 15 people spend a couple of hours cutting fabric, sewing bags and adorning them with the Boomerang Bag label.

“I encourage a lot of beginner sewers to come,” Dickinson said. “It’s a great environment to learn to get back on your sewing machine, there are lots of experienced sewers there to help… (The bags) don’t have to be perfect or pretty. I’m all about production; let’s get them out there.”

There are also tasks for non-sewers who are keen to help. On top of that, the group puts together bundles of pre-cut fabric for volunteers to sew bags at home.

“People are welcome to start their own sewing circle,” Dickinson said. “If there are two or three people who’d like to get together and sew, I can provide them with the labels. There are many ways of doing it.”

The next bag-making sessions are on Feb. 6 and March 6 from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Pemberton Community Centre. For more information or to get in touch with the group, find them on Facebook at Boomerang Bags Pemberton.

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