Bega's Tulgeen staff make mesh bags to replace plastic in supermarket's produce section

Across Australia, supermarkets and state governments are taking steps to phase out plastic bag use at the grocery store.

While some people have picked up the habit of bringing their own reusable bags to the cash register, many  still rely on the thinner plastic bags provided in the fruit and vegetable section to package their fresh produce. 

To close this gap in the waste cycle, the Tulgeen Group in Bega have made reusable mesh bags to replace the plastic produce bags.

The supported staff at Tulgeen’s Stitches and Printss workshop have been working tirelessly over the last month making the mesh bags, and were delighted to see them finally sold in store at Coles Bega on Wednesday, December 6.

Jennifer Wade said she can make up to 500 bags a day.

"We’ve been making a lot, they're easy to make so I can make a lot of them in one day,” she said.

"I like making things on the sewing machine so this is a good job for me.”

The mesh bags are sold in a small canvas bags made by staff member Annie Russell. The canvas bags are screen-printed with the Tulgeen logo and are small enough to fit in a shopper’s pocket or handbag. 

Making mesh bags in the Stitches and Prints workshop.

Tulgeen enterprise manager Dave Akehurst said the mesh bags give the community an environmentally friendly option and are superior to plastic produce bags in more ways that one. 

‘They don't weigh anything, so they don’t add to the price of fruit or vegetables at the register,” he said. 

“They also increase the fridge life of your food, because the bags are breathable your produce won’t sweat, meaning food stays edible for far longer.

“And they’re not just for food, you can use them for your delicates in the washing machine, to keep your swimmers in after the beach, they're washable and reusable so they can be used for whatever you want.”

Mr Akehurst said there similar mesh bags are sold online, but by buying their locally made version shoppers are supporting the jobs in the Stitches and Patches workshop.

“It's important for us to provide meaningful, paid employment for these ladies,” he said.

“And the more we sell, the more jobs we create in the future.”

Tulgeen staff  said Coles Bega had been very supportive by allowing them to will set up their stall and sell mesh produce bags at the entrance of the supermarket each Wednesday, from 10am.

The bags can be purchased at any other time from the Coles Bega service desk.