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The town vowing to banish plastic

Bagging it to highlight Martinborough’s push to become plastic-free are P&K’s Conor Kershaw, left, Josie Bidwill of Thunderpants, Amanda Ritchie of Boomerang Bags Martinborough, and Luella Kershaw, 8. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Martinborough community leading the way with innovative campaign

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An ambitious goal to make Martinborough plastic-free has become the focus of a massive community effort.

Businesses are leading the charge to ditch single-use plastic bags, disposable cups, and straws, and $23,000 has been raised to give every urban household a reusable cotton bag to use for shopping.

Pain & Kershaw, the town’s biggest employer, will be plastic bag-free from July 1, with other Martinborough businesses also committing to the cause.

The eco-friendly approach was inspired by the successful Boomerang Bag initiative, which local women Amanda Ritchie and Carolyn Irwin launched in the town last year.

So far, dozens of volunteers have gathered at Thunderpants to sew more than 1700 fabric bags that were distributed to shops for customers to use for free, with the intention these would “boomerang” back to the shops.

“Boomerang bags basically provided people with an alternative to plastic bags, but we found the boomerang bags were not boomeranging back,” Ms Ritchie said.

The two women’s husbands, Simon Groves and Baptist Sieber, set out to find a more sustainable option that would take the load off their wives and good Samaritan sewers.

The men approached businesses and community groups and raised $23,000 within two weeks.

These funds were used to buy 10,000 certified organic and fair-trade cotton bags from India, which will be put into circulation in Martinborough shops, alongside the boomerang bags.

Biodegradable shopping bags have also been purchased to be put into businesses such as Scotty’s Meats, where owner Scotty Reid has been encouraging his customers to pick up their meat in reusable containers for some time.

Conor Kershaw, owner operator of Pain & Kershaw Four Square, Mitre 10 Martinborough, and The General Store, said the goal was to be plastic bag-free by July 1, to see in Plastic Free July.

He said while it was hard for the business to get rid of plastic completely, it was on a path to reducing its plastic consumption.

P&K would be switching to compostable cling film later this year, and introducing either compostable or recyclable packaging for its deli packed items, as well as stocking sustainable single use plates and cutlery packs.

P&K has also reduced waste to landfill by 33 per cent, and is recycling around 80 per cent of its total waste streams, thanks to a waste strategy change a year ago.


“Single-use plastics are the enemy,” Mr Kershaw said.

“They [plastic bags] literally last 12 minutes, that’s the average timeframe that they’re used, and then they’re either discarded or used as a bin liner – of course people think that’s fine, but what happens is once they end up in the landfill they take flight pretty easily.”

The Martinborough Business Association is playing its part in the movement, with members pounding the streets this month encouraging stores to promote sustainable alternatives to plastic.

“We started thinking, if we can get rid of single-use plastic bags, we can get rid of single-use plastics altogether,” business association chairman Peter Couchman said.

“It’s about making Martinborough a great place to live, work and play.”

He said going plastic-free was an example of the town leading the way, as it was doing with its Dark Sky Reserve initiative.

“Heaps of people that come to New Zealand are ecologically savvy.

“We see this as lining up nicely with our wine and olive oil industries, and our fishing community in Ngawi.

“Aiming to go plastic-free is in line with all the wonderful natural assets we have in the South Wairarapa.”

Martinborough ward councillor Pip Maynard said the project had been entirely community driven from the start.

“It’s absolutely amazing and shows the really cool, forward-thinking, and innovative people that we have here in Martinborough.”

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