Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Environment

These Women Are Weaving Plastic Bags for a Really Good Cause

In the basement of a church in Tennessee, a group of women side aside a massive pile of plastic bags. They’re turning the harmful side of plastic — the fact that it takes hundreds of years to decompose — and putting a positive spin on it — by transforming them into sleeping mats for the homeless.

Since January, the group of elderly women have made 160 sleeping mats and saved over 10,000 plastic bags from landfills.

It’s just a small dent in the 2 million plastic bags used every minute around the world, but it’s making a big difference in the lives of homeless men, women, and youth in the area.

It takes about two weeks for the women to make a mat. First they take the plastic bags, cut them into strips and then tie the strip together making long balls of yarn. With the balls of yarn, which they call “plarn,” the women then crochet yards of plarn into tightly knit rectangular mats.

The beds are about 3 feet by 6 feet, and take around 600 plastic bags to make into a sleeping mat.

Some of the sleeping mats have also gone to help victims of the flooding in Louisiana, which displaced tens of thousands of people from their homes.  

Read More: Rwanda Banned Plastic Bags and Saved Lives

"We feel really blessed to be able to do this," said Janice Akin, 66. "I know it doesn't sound like much, but it's a good feeling to know you're helping someone — even if just a little bit."

If you’re one of the many people who has a closet full of plastic bags take a little inspiration from these “bag ladies.”

Crocheting from plastic bags is something each of us could learn. There’s plenty of Youtube videos out there for all types of creative ways to use “plarn.”

These women are an inspiration for how they’re helping the homeless, but also in how they’re giving new life to something so bad for the environment. If mats aren’t your thing, you can also make coasters, rugs, a clutch or purse, and even your own wedding dress. Or a more durable grocery bag.