RYEDALE Environmental Group (REG) encourages local projects that reduce our environmental impacts across the district by promoting recycling, re-use and the reduction of waste.

So far town and village-based groups have been set up in Malton, Norton, Pickering and Kirby Misperton.

Monthly meetings - currently on hold due to Covid-19 - allow us to share successful initiatives and come up with new ideas with these new groups and also with well-established groups in Kirkbymoorside and Hovingham.

Each month this column will feature a group or project to showcase our activities.

This month we showcase Morsbags – a growing initiative that aims to replace single use plastic bags with re-useable free fabric bags sewn by an increasing number of keen stitchers across Ryedale.

Keen sewers Daryl Cattaneo and Brenda Foot, from Pickering, are bagging growing support in Ryedale to do their bit to save the planet.

From a small group in the town, Morsbags “pod” numbers have more than doubled in in 2019.

Daryl said: “As a result of holding four very successful workshops in 2019, I am very pleased to report that five new pods have now been set up in Ryedale, including in Malton and Norton - an amazing figure in a short space of time.

“The groups or ‘pods’ are now registered with the worldwide Morsbags organisation which was the brainchild of Claire Morsman, who came up with the concept in 2007 to make cloth shopping bags out of recycled curtains and duvet covers to give away free to be used instead of plastic bags.”

Claire Morsman was shocked by the huge damage done to marine and other wildlife by plastic bags.

The Morsbags website explains: “Plastic bags in water are serial killers. They are ingested by marine wildlife, as plastic bags are often mistaken for jellyfish. The dolphin, whale, turtle or bird dies by suffocation or starvation and decomposes around the bag. The bag floats off, ready for its next victim…

“No one knows how long these treacherous bags take to biodegrade. Humans have only been using them for 40 years but they are already covering the planet. Plastic bags photodegrade (break down into smaller and smaller toxic bits) and the pieces infiltrate every part of the food chain, for marine wildlife and humans.”

Daryl added: “Pickering Foodshare opened their doors on the February 28 to provide free surplus food to local people who need it.

“We went along to give our support by giving away 50 bags that people could take their food home in and we sewed another 15 bags that first morning.

“Before lockdown hit in March, Pickering Morsbaggers met in Middleton Village Hall - four new people joined us and we made 62 bags.

“Due to Covid-19 we have not been able to meet during lockdown, but we have been busy making bags at home and have built up a good stock to give away as soon as we can.

“We have also been putting our time to good use in helping the local groups of volunteers to make wash bags, hats, and masks for NHS workers coping with the current crisis.”

To find out more about Morsbags, go to morsbags.com or email Daryl on daryl.cattaneo@icloud.com to hear more about local groups.