Borrow Bags, Fighting Plastic Pollution One Bag at a Time

This week, we were excited to relaunch Borrow Bags across Emsworth and Hayling Island after a successful pilot scheme. The scheme focusses squarely on reducing the use of plastic and minimising plastic waste, one bag at a time. By using pre-loved fabric to make reusable bags that are then given out in local shops, the aim is to reduce the reliance on plastic bags by switching them with fabric ‘Borrow Bags’ that can be used time and time again. Every time a Borrow Bag is used and reused instead of a plastic bag, we are reducing our plastic footprint.

Recent data* shows that in 2019-2020 in the UK, we still used 564 million single-use plastic bags. Supermarkets also sold a staggering 1.58 billion bags for life in 2019**, with evidence pointing to these tougher bags, which contain even more plastic, being used in much the same way as disposable plastic bags – often only used a couple of times.

The idea behind Borrow Bags is simple. Preloved fabric, such as old curtains, duvet covers and fabric remnants, is donated to the charity. Volunteer groups then sew the textiles into reusable fabric bags. Local shops that have signed up to the scheme are provided with batches of the bags, for free, to give out to customers who have forgotten to bring their own reusable bag. The bags are called Borrow Bags as the intention is that the next time the customer visits the shop, or one of the other participating shops, they can return the bag – or they can simply keep using it, avoiding the necessity for a plastic bag.

Volunteers sewing bags for the Borrow Bag scheme

FSF co-founder Lissie Pollard explains, “Borrow Bags is a simple scheme that works on several levels. Pre-loved fabric, that could otherwise have ended up in landfill, is reused to make bags and given out in shops. This not only reduces the need for plastic bags, which helps to tackle plastic pollution, but diverts fabric from our waste streams. The bags are made by teams of brilliant volunteers, bringing local people in the community together to support a shared goal, meeting new people at the same time. We have also been running Borrow Bag workshops over the winter as part of the wider Warm Spaces scheme, so that people can come to a local community centre, sew bags, enjoy free hot drinks and make new connections. We are proud of the scheme on every level and hope that it’s a huge success. We are so grateful to our volunteers, we couldn’t do this project without them.”

Volunteers sewing bags

Volunteer Carol Carter has been running a Borrow Bag group on Hayling Island. ‘I enjoy the bag workshops, which are helping to save the planet! They bring people together for fun, creative and very social events where new skills can be learnt, and new friends made.’

A finished Borrow Bag ready for the shops

To date, over 2,500 bags have been made by volunteers, diverting 200 kg of fabric from the waste stream, and over 20 shops are taking part in the scheme across Emsworth and Hayling Island. If each of these bags is used and reused between 10 and 50 times, this potentially replaces 25,000 – 125,000 single-use plastic bags being used in the local area, and the hope is that they will be used even more.

To find out more about the scheme, to become a volunteer or register interest in stocking the bags if you are a local shop, visit our Borrow Bag page here:



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s