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Transition Southport is set to launch their campaign ‘SWANS DON’T SHOP!’ to encourage local shoppers to reduce their use of plastic carrier bags.  This will take place on Saturday 15 February 2014,

2.15 to 4.00 pm, at Southport Temperance Institute, London Street, Southport, PR9 0 TH, and is open to anyone interested in the campaign.

It is estimated that the average shopper uses 300 plastic bags a year, the majority of which are used for 20 minutes and never re-used. Wildlife on land and sea mistake discarded plastic for food and eat it, or become entangled in it, leading to a slow and painful death. When they die, the plastic remains to kill again.  Plastic does not biodegrade, but can eventually photo-degrade to a microscopic dust that attracts

pollutants in the sea.  This chemical dust enters our food chain by being swallowed by the fish we eat.  On land, plastic bags can block drains and even damage cars, and if animals eat them, the toxic waste ends up on your plate.

The 17 billion bags that are used in the UK each year may be hard to visualise, so to bring it down to a local scale, one Southport supermarket gave out  43,000 free disposable plastic carrier bags to their customers in just one week in  February 2013 – and that doesn’t include their home delivery customers.

(This is also a relatively responsible supermarket that has a strict policy of only one bag per £10 of purchases).  Multiply that by 52 weeks of the year, and then estimate how many businesses we have in our town to truly comprehend the vast scale of use.

As most residents will be aware, the damage to our tourist spots such as the beaches and marine lake area is only too evident, not to mention all the urban grot spots.  ‘Free’ plastic carrier bags are not

in reality free – their cost is added on to our retail prices, and whatever goes into our bins has to be paid for in council tax towards landfill costs.  Ireland and Wales have banned free plastic bags, as have an ever increasing number of other countries.  Legislation in England is planned for Autumn 2015, but will only apply  to companies with over 250 employees.

 So what is the solution?

You are. It’s easy – bring your own bags with you when you shop. Transition Southport will be adopting the tactics of a London teacher, Pol Morsman, who created a campaign

website ‘morsbags.com’ after finding a bird strangled by plastic. She encourages communities to form sociable groups called ‘pods’ who make attractive  carrier bags from donated fabric that might

otherwise end up in landfill – unwanted curtains, duvet covers, cushion covers, shop samples and remnants etc. The pod then gives the morsbags away free of charge to surprised shoppers.  It’s called

sociable guerrilla bagging!  Simple instructions and video can be downloaded from www.morsbags.com.

Anyone can make a morsbag on a sewing machine, including Prince Charles who had a go himself and also donated curtains from the royal households.  They can also be made by hand.  The

morsbag.com website shows some striking bags have been made, and a wide selection of celebrities rallied to the cause.

Darren Lloyd, resident teacher at the Eco-Centre has offered to host bag-making workshops for families. Residents or businesses that wish to donate suitable clean fabrics or thread, or unwanted dressmaking scissors, may drop them off  at  the front desk of the Eco-Centre, or at MakeItWorkshop, 8-10 Cambridge Walks, (opposite Cranberry’s Café).  Those without computer access can request a copy of  the sewing instructions from the Eco-Centre or MakeItWorkshop.  Simon Tregan from FABRICS in Banastre Road has started the ball rolling by giving the very grateful Transition Southport pod a generous quantity of curtain fabric roll ends and industrial spools of thread.  Morrisons supermarket has also kindly donated reels of sewing thread to support the campaign.  Asda’s Community Champion will be attending the launch, as will Southport’s MP John Pugh.

Darren Lloyd said  “We are very keen to support Transition Southport on this project and it compliments our current approach to educating schools and communities on waste issues. Here on Merseyside we throw away 22,000 tonnes of clothes and textiles each year, this project will hopefully help divert some of them from landfill sites and turn them into useful reused and recycled items. Furthermore, a bag made by families can really help promote behavioural and cultural change and cut down the need to rely on plastics when shopping.”

Making the simple bags would be a great project for organisations such as schools, youth groups, craft clubs, or care homes, as well as community-minded individuals. Local retailers can get behind the campaign by downloading traders support posters to display on their premises. These will be available to download from www.southportecocentre.com or www.transitionsouthport.blogspot.co.uk

Many of our local businesses are struggling in the current economic climate, and the cost of providing mountains of free plastic bags does not help.  Training ourselves to bring our own bags with us when we shop would be a real practical support to our local traders. After all, this is only what people did without complaint before plastic was invented!

To join the Transition Southport pod, please e-mail [email protected], telephone 01704575518.  You can also come and chat to them about the project at the Green Drinks social space that takes place at 8 pm every second Thursday of the month at the Victoria Pub, on the Promenade opposite the Ramada Hotel.  They next meet on Thursday 13 February.

Remember, swans don’t shop, so take your own bags with you.

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