Reusable bag

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

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.”

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