Cape Breton congregation recycles plastic bags into sleeping mats for the homeless

A congregation in Cape Breton hopes to help the homeless and the environment at the same time by making sleeping mats out of discarded plastic grocery bags.

'It's something that has captured the imagination of people on Cape Breton Island'

Pat Dixon works to recycle 250 plastic bags into a mat to make sleeping more comfortable for the homeless, an initiative launched by Faith Baptist Church in Sydney. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

A congregation in Cape Breton hopes to help the homeless and the environment at the same time by making sleeping mats out of discarded plastic grocery bags. 

"We can't claim that we've invented anything here," said Pastor Rob Jones of the Faith Baptist Church in Sydney. "We plagiarized the idea to some degree."

The finished mats are lightweight and soft. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

Jones said he discovered the idea online, complete with YouTube how-to videos, while researching ways to help the homeless population in Nova Scotia.

"They're for people who are sleeping rough to be able to sleep on, to give them more comfort and more insulation," said Jones.

'It's easy once you get going'

The finished mats are about two metres by one metre. They're lightweight, so they're easy to carry, said Jones, and "surprisingly" soft.

Congregation member Pat Dixon has made the first couple of prototypes for the church. Each mat uses about 250 bags, and takes about 10 hours to make.

People have been keen to help Faith Baptist Church with the mats. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

"It's easy once you get going," said Dixon. "Just weaving in and out."

Her husband, Ian Dixon, said it's a great use of plastic grocery bags, many of which end up in people's recycling or the trash.

Training sessions planned

Ian noted that China recently tightened its rules on the plastic recyclables it will accept. 

"We're not only helping the environment, but helping our homeless too," he said.

The finished product is about two metres by one metre. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

The church hasn't donated any of the mats to homeless organizations yet.

Jones said they're in the process of training others in the church community to make the mats and are planning a day-long session next month.

Other uses

He said they're also looking for donations of bags from the wider community, and have had a "fantastic response."

People have asked him to post the pattern online, so they can make the mats and drop them off at the church.

"It's something that has captured the imagination of people on Cape Breton Island."

Jones is already thinking of other uses for the plastic mats.

"If you make smaller versions, you can make little mats to put by the front door to wipe your feet on," he said. "There's a whole system of how to use plastic bags to recycle them to make something useful."