Library to begin offering cloth bags to reduce the use of plastic bags

Published 6:38 am Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Several weeks ago, the Austin Public Library and Friends of the Library announced they were looking to replace the plastic bags at the library. They asked for donations of fabric as well as volunteers to take the time to sew the bags in the hopes that the public would respond.

And respond they did.

Sitting in the office of APL Director Julie Clinefelter is a cart containing approximately 300 cloth bags that she plans to make available to the public this week.

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“I went to visit the Northfield Public Library and I noticed they had a lot of cloth bags, so I asked them about it and they told me about this Boomerang Bag company out of Australia that gives you all of the information and patterns,” Clinefelter said. “They talked to me about how they did it and it went so well that it took over the town of Northfield, so there is a lot less plastic going out. The plastic bags here at the library are something I’ve always wanted to get rid of, but didn’t know exactly how.”

The purpose of Boomerang Bags is to provide solutions to plastic pollution and foster sustainable behavior through grassroots community engagement. Clinefelter conferred with the Friends of the Library and the decision was made to ask for materials.

Approximately 300 Boomerang Bags have been completed by volunteers in the past few weeks. Mike Stoll/

“People started bringing in materials and then all of a sudden we had all of this material,” Clinefelter said. “We started making kits and leaving them on a cart out front with a sign that encouraged people to take a kit, make a bag and bring it back. We had people contacting us saying, ‘I have materials at home. What do you need?’”

Clinefelter then registered Austin with Boomerang Bags, who in turn gave its approval to use labels with the company’s icon and “Austin Public Library” on the bottom.

About half of the 300 finished bags have labels on them, and the APL is looking for volunteers to finish sewing on the labels.

“Starting this week, we will start putting out these bags with the idea that you take a bag, you use it for your library books, or for groceries or to use around town,” Clinefelter said. “If you want to bring it back, that’s fine; if you want to hang onto it and keep using it, that’s perfect. We’ll keep making them.”

Clinefelter was impressed with the community’s response.

“Every day I get about six to a dozen new bags,” she said. “The community has really been amazing and the Friends of the Library has been great with organizing it all. Thank you to everyone who has brought them in.

“If you’re continuing to do your spring cleaning and you find materials you don’t need anymore, you can either bring them in here or you can make a bag and we’ll give you a label.”