Linda Tai with a selection of Roman Road reusable bags

Roman Road prepares to launch Tower Hamlets’ first borrow-a-bag scheme

The Roman Road Borrow-A-Bag scheme is ready to launch. Starting next week, local shoppers will be able to borrow custom made reusable bags from participating shops and market stalls.

The initiative, run in partnership with Plastic-free Roman Road, Sunny Jar Eco Hub, and Tower Hamlets High Streets, aims to reduce plastic bag usage in the area. Instead of buying plastic bags, shoppers can now use Borrow-A-Bag bags for free and return them to any participating store on the street.

All the bags are upcycled, with old tote bags donated by Llamas Pyjamas and fabrics donated by East End locals. Hundreds of tote bags have been made for the project – no two quite the same – during a series of workshops at St. Margaret’s House, Cranbrook Community Centre, and local cafes.

Linda Tai, one of the project’s main organisers, said: ‘You get some people coming for the sewing and learning about sustainability, then those who come for the sustainability side learn how to sew.’ She estimates 300 people have already been involved in the project to get it this far.

‘It’s been a massive community effort,’ she said. ‘And it’s not just about the final result of using plastic less, it’s about raising awareness about recycling and sustainability.’

Plastic-free Roman Road head Lizzy Mace said: ‘The project has brought so many groups together. Businesses, schools, residents, and council. It’s an example in action of the kind of collaboration we need to tackle the biggest issues we face today.’

She added that she hoped the project would help raise awareness of concepts like zero waste living, the circular economy,  upcycling, sharing/ borrowing things in our communities, and collective ownership.

Every bag is adorned with one of four designs produced by local students. Rachel Keeley Nursery, Globe Primary School, Bangabandhu Primary School, and Morpeth Secondary School each produced a design for the project.

Roman Road Borrow-A-Bag is currently considered something of a pilot scheme, and so will initially focus on the western end of Roman Roman. Local participants are expected to include Simply Fresh and Herbert’s Fruit and Salad.

Volunteer Becky Rice said: ‘It’s a whole new thing, it offers a different perspective. You don’t have to spend much to be sustainable. Sometimes it actually costs less.’

If you’re interested in learning more about the Roman Road Borrow-a-bag scheme, there will be a launch event on Wednesday 16 October at Cranbrook Community Centre.

Linda Tai and the Roman Road borrow-a-bag tote bags

If you enjoyed this piece you may be interested in the community gardens around Roman Road

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Frederick O'Brien

Fred is a writer and researcher with a background in sustainable development. His research has featured in The Independent, the Evening Standard, and the New York Post, among others.

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