What do you do when you have an excess of plastic bags from your countless trips to Target? Are you like Liz Lemon and use one bag to hold all of your other plastic bags? Do you throw them out? Do you reuse them on your next shopping trip?
A group of women in Tennessee, appropriately named the “Bag Ladies,” have accumulated a large quantity of plastic bags—and rather than toss them, they found a unique way to reuse them.
For years there have been campaigns to ban the single-use plastic bag.
Between 2015 and 2016 a total of 23 states had legislation pending regarding the regulation of single-use plastic bags. And ever since then, campaigns to either ban or more effectively recycle plastic bags have become more prevalent.
In 2016, a group of elderly women in Tennessee took it upon themselves to find a way to reuse these plastic bags.
Not only was their solution good for the environment, but it helped those in need too.
The group of women got together when they learned about homeless people sleeping along the Mississippi River.
In January 2015, members of the Second Baptist Church in Union City, Tennessee learned about homeless people who slept alongside the soggy banks of the Mississippi River.
One of the church’s members, Patty Arnold, had an idea. Why not help them by using something that everyone undoubtedly had plenty of? Plastic bags!
It was then that the “Bag Ladies” were born.
Each week a group of women gathered at the church and cut hundreds of plastic bags into strips and tied them together, before rolling them into balls to create what they called “plarn.” Once they had enough plarn they started to crochet.
According to Inside Edition it took between 700 and 800 plastic bags to make a 3-foot by 6-foot sleeping mat.
“It’s addictive,” Janice Akin, one of the women who helped make the plastic bag sleeping mats, told WGN. “It gets to the point that you do two or three and you say, ‘Hey, I’m actually making a difference in someone’s life,’ and you want to do more.”
The women cut the plastic bags into strips, rolled them into balls of ‘plarn,’ then crocheted sleeping mats.
Arnold told Inside Edition that in about nine months the group of women, which had doubled since they first started, made roughly 90 sleeping mats, which meant they had recycled approximately 52,000 plastic bags.
In less than a year the group was able to recycle over 50,000 plastic bags.
In addition to supplying mats for the homeless along the banks of the Mississippi River, the Bag Ladies also sent mats to a dozen people who lost their homes due to a flood in Louisiana.
“We don’t do it for publicity. We do it for love and to make a difference,” Arnold said.
Since their unique way of recycling plastic bags has received more attention, many people contacted the church group with interest in donating plastic bags. Unfortunately they no longer accept donations—but they encourage others to start their own program.