It does not refer to wrinkly old bag ladies or droopy middle aged bimbo's. MODBURY is the quintessential small English West Country town. Set in a hollow among rolling Devon hills just a few miles from the sea, it has 760 households, a high street, three churches, a primary school, several pubs, two takeaways, a surgery, a small supermarket and 40 or so small shops.
Not much happens in Modbury. Some say the last time the peace was disturbed was in 1643 when Roundheads and Cavaliers fought in its streets. But a revolution of another kind will happen tomorrow. At 8am, it will become the first plastic bag-free town in Europe.
Spurred by environmental fervour and growing concern about the 100 billion or more plastic bags thought to be littering the world and clogging the seas, the town's 43 traders have declared their independence from the plastic bag and pledged to no longer sell, give away or otherwise provide them for a minimum of six months.
No one knows how much it will cost them or the town, or whether people will rise in revolt.
But Modbury will be full of biodegradable, organic, unbleached, recycled carrier bags of every description — except plastic.
Retailers are so committed that they have commissioned 2000 official Modbury bags, which could soon be collectors' items. They will sell for £3.95 ($A9.50).
The idea of a plastic bag-free town comes from Rebecca Hoskins, a young Modbury-born-and-raised wildlife camerawoman who went to the Pacific last year to film marine life for the BBC but experienced horrendous plastic bag pollution.
"It really affected me," she said. "I have never cried behind a camera before. But it broke my heart to see animals entangled in plastic, albatrosses dying in plastic, dolphins trailing plastic and seals with their noses trapped in parcel tape roll.
"The sea is now like a trash can and the plastic is there for ever. What I witnessed was just so unnecessary. All this damage is simply caused by our throwaway living."
She returned to Devon, went diving and found the seas there also full of plastic.
"So I booked the Modbury art gallery, invited all the traders and showed them my film. At the end, they all said they would give up plastic bags."
The art gallery's Sue Sturton said it was very moving. "I thought people would turn a blind eye to something happening as far away as Hawaii," she said. "But I was wrong. We have a responsibility here. People go to the beaches here and we as shopkeepers are just handing out plastic shopping bags."
"She massaged us. But it didn't need much," said Jane, who runs the St Luke's hospice charity shop, which is turning to paper and cloth bags. "I think it could work elsewhere, but this is definitely not a normal town at all."
"They've got it now," said Ms Hoskins, who gave up her film work two months ago to concentrate on turning the town plastic bag-free. "It seems to have really brought people together.
"The shops have sent all their unused plastic bags to Newcastle where they are being made into plastic chairs. And they have all set up plastic bag amnesty points where people can bring in the hundreds of bags that they keep under the kitchen sink.
"Now it's just a question of seeing if people accept it."
Thursday, 3 May 2007
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