Making good use of those plastic grocery bags

By Christine Bryant
Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Donna Lister
(From left) Volunteers Madison Kelley, Donna Lister and Amanda Blalock cut plastic bags into strips that are used to make mats for the homeless.

After a trip to the grocery store, what to do with those pesky space-consuming plastic bags is a conundrum.

Throw them away, and you aren’t doing the environment any favors. Keep them, and you’re risking your own sanity.

A group of Reynoldsburg volunteers has the answer – donate them.

The local chapter of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Relief Society is collecting plastic grocery bags to make sleeping mats for the homeless. Each month, a group of women and girls gather at 2135 Baldwin Road in Reynoldsburg to assemble and crochet the mats.

“Plastic bags are ideal for this project because they are water-proof, surprisingly soft and supportive, and roll into a relatively easy-to-carry mat,” volunteer Donna Lister said.

It takes between 500 and 700 bags to make one mat and are assembled by making “plarn,” or plastic bag yarn. Volunteers are needed as well, with the group’s goal of completing 20 mats this summer.

“No special skills are required,” Lister said. “We need people who can cut the bags into strips, and those who wish to crochet can be assured it’s a very basic stitch and can be learned in a matter of minutes.”

Pat Lewis, who leads the committee responsible for the project, says the group of volunteers has the goal of completing the project by the time the weather turns cold.

“The winter months are when the homeless shelters typically have an overflow need, and so with this lead time, we felt like we could finish a dozen and perhaps more for them to have available,” she said.

Plastic bags are the perfect material for several reasons, Lewis said. Not only are they easily available at no cost, if they get dirty, they can be hosed down and dried in the sun.

“They are pliable and easy to make into plastic yarn, and they are incredibly strong and sturdy once they are crocheted,” she said. “They won’t tear or fray.”

In addition to donating mats to the homeless, the group will donate some to a local Boy Scouts troop as well, she said.

Anyone wishing to donate clean bags can drop them off on Sundays between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. or Tuesdays between 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. at 2135 Baldwin Road. The group also welcomes anyone who would like to volunteer their time during the next two work sessions at 7 p.m. July 13 and Aug. 10.


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