In South Africa
Mary Honeybun started Bread Tags for Wheelchairs in South Africa in 2006.
Retiring from nursing, she wanted to help others and was also passionate about the environment. Mary was aware that the majority of people in need of wheelchairs in South Africa were unable to afford to buy their own.
She came up with the idea of recycling plastic to raise funds to buy wheelchairs and found a plastic moulding company prepared to take bread tags. In South Africa (but unfortunately not in Australia), Bread Tags for Wheelchairs recycle bottle tops as well as bread tags, and by the early 2023 had funded more than 1,000 mobility aids.
After a while, Australians got wind of the program. People with South African connections started taking tags with them when they visited and some people posted bread tags. Jodie Falco at 1079 Life radio station in Adelaide promoted Bread Tags for Wheelchairs on air and the tags started flowing in.
By late 2018 there was sufficient interest across Australia to set up a national collection network. Jenny Cooper, a South African who had migrated to Australia in the 1990’s, took up the challenge, setting up a Facebook page, contacting those who had expressed interest, and creating a map of collection points and some promotional materials.
The response was amazing, with the network very soon growing rapidly. In February 2019 we engaged with a local recycler, Transmutation, in Robe, SA. Now there are 550+ collection points spread across every state and territory. We are currently recycling 250kg of bread tags every month, and have recycled a total of more than 11 tonnes recycled to date. Recycling of 250kg of bread tags funds an entry level wheelchair, although some cost more, depending on the client’s needs. We have funded more than 88 wheelchairs from Australia.
Since September 2019 we have been registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. Our leadership team comprises Annalise Soontiens, Ann Tilsley, Jenny Cooper and Jodie Falco, pictured below.
While still primarily funding wheelchairs in South Africa, by mid-2021 we had sufficient funds through recycling and donations to spread our focus wider. Since then we have funded ten wheelchairs for children in other countries through collaboration with Wheelchairs for Kids in WA and helped fund two expeditions to assist disabled people in Papua New Guinea through Motivation Australia. See our Gallery and News pages for details.
The network of volunteers continues to grow – we have collectors, collection point hosts, state coordinators, colour sorters and people who help with transport. We are supported by schools, child care centres, small businesses, local councils, churches, community centres, hospitals and aged care facilities. What a wonderful community this has become!