Reusable bag

Figure 1 The reusable bags that were gifted to support the movement to becoming plastic-bag free. Photo credit: raglan.net.nz

In October 2018, Whāingaroa Raglan won the Keep New Zealand Beautiful ‘Community Environmental Initiative Award’. The kōrero behind the Award was a story of what happened when a whole community worked together to engage in significant behaviour change around one troublesome item of waste – single-use plastic carry bags.

Plastic Bag Free Raglan has summarised their experiences, lessons learned and the methodologies employed in a very detailed case study that gives advice to other community groups setting out on a similar journey. Below we pull out the key insights highlighted in the report as instrumental to the project’s success.

  • Research: Understanding the problem and possible solutions and learning from similar experiences of other groups throughout the world prevents ‘reinventing the wheel’ and helps solve the problem in question more efficiently.
  • Leadership: A strong group of people leading the project ensures it is enduring through difficult times.
  • Team: A high functioning, capable and empowered working team working under the guidance of strong leadership is instrumental to success.
  • Resources: Financial support is crucial for a project to flourish.
  • Engaging mission: A simple, easy-to-remember, powerful statement helps with community buy-in.
  • Data: Local data helps to engage the specific community by making it a real and tangible local issue and baseline data provides a vital benchmark for the project for later comparison.
  • Key behaviour change strategies: Understanding what it is that will tap into peoples’ motivation to change and implementing strategies related to these will improve uptake.
  • Excellent and consistent positive messaging: Communication that is regular, simple and consistent with the theme will resonate more clearly with people. Positive messaging is more effective than messaging that invokes fear.
  • Tenacity and determination: During times when you need to dig deep, reminders of why you started on the journey and what the community’s vision is can help to reignite enthusiasm.

“Planning, hard work, tenacity and community coming together has resulted in an excess of 240,000 single-use plastic bags being saved from entering the Raglan environment or landfill in the space of one year. Nationally, New Zealanders across the country let the Ministry for the Environment know there was support for a total bag ban, which is in effect from 1 July 2019. While we can’t know the extent to which Plastic Bag Free Raglan helped to instigate this ban, there is no doubt the mahi undertaken in little Raglan helped put the wheels in motion. Seeing positive results has created hope and has encouraged the momentum to grow. Now the battle to rid our town of single-use plastic has evolved in Raglan to look at the next topic to take on.”

Explore more case studies from Rethinking Plastics

Sustainability through connection, learning and action

With a kaupapa of creating a healthy, peaceful, more sustainable world, Toimata Foundation supports inter-generational learning and action by running two main programmes in schools and communities:…

Reducing the carbon footprint of plastics by using recycled plastic

In a study of the carbon footprint of projected global plastic use between 2015 and 2050, Zheng and Suh modelled a theoretical situation of 100% recycling of plastic in 2050, and found it had a 25%…

A reusable system to replace single-use cups

Globelet offers a reusable cup system for festivals and other events. The cups are made from recycled polypropylene (#5) and manufactured onshore. Globelet provides the following statistics on their…

How big is the plastic clothing problem for Aotearoa New Zealand?

Some plastic articles of clothing are captured in the ‘Plastics and articles thereof’ harmonised trade codes in import data from Statistics NZ, but this does not account for all synthetic fibres im…

A business enabling people to rethink their use of plastic

Ecostore is an exemplar of how a business can take transformative action to rethink how we use plastics and inspire system-wide change. To enable people to reduce their use of non-renewable single-…

New Zealand Post’s quest for an alternative to plastic

The driver: New Zealand Post wants a more sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative to their existing plastic mailers (e.g. courier bags, pre-paid postage bags). New Zealand Post has also…

Para Kore – helping people reduce their waste

Para Kore is a Māori organisation that provides mentoring and support for marae, kōhanga reo, kura, community organisations, iwi, tertiary, commercial sector, events and Māori communities to reduce…

Plastic Bag Free Raglan, Pēke Kirihou Kore Whāingaroa

In October 2018, Whāingaroa Raglan won the Keep New Zealand Beautiful ‘Community Environmental Initiative Award’. The kōrero behind the Award was a story of what happened when a whole community wor…

Controlled plastic decomposition

Plastics are made by joining monomers together to form long flexible chains in a process known as polymerisation. The strength of the bonds formed between monomers is what makes the plastics persis…

Recyclable shoes

As part of its recent pledge to use only recycled plastics by 2024, Adidas revealed a new sneaker made from 100% recyclable materials. Driven by a connection to environmental organisation Parley for…