New Brunswick

Plastic bags woven into sleeping mats for Fredericton's homeless

A Fredericton environmental group is making sleeping mats out of old plastic bags for the city's homeless population.

Falls Brook Centre hoping to get 11 mats made to make up for lack of beds in the city

A Fredericton group is making sleeping mats out of plastic bags for the homeless after the bags are turned into plarn, or plastic yarn. (Charlotte Flores)

A Fredericton environmental group is making sleeping mats out of old plastic bags for the city's homeless population.

Charlotte Flores, education coordinator at the Falls Brook Centre, said the mats will be given to the city's homeless first. But they also plan to expand the program to other communities and people.

The idea came from a yearly event called Free School, where a friend told Flores about a mat she was crocheting for a local church. From there, she went on Youtube to learn more about how to do it. She ended up building her own peg loom to make the mats.

Charlotte Flores built a peg loom to weave the mats out of plastic bags. (Falls Brook Centre/Facebook)

"We make something called plarn, which is plastic yarn," Flores told Shift New Brunwsick on Thursday. "You prep your bag, they have to be well-flattened and you fold them vertically in half, cutting off the handle and the bottom of the bag. And then you cut them into about four-inch wide pieces."

Then, a simple knot is used to attach plastic bags together to create the yarn, she said. The mats that are created from the bags are durable and "incredibly comfortable," she said.

"We have brought them to different community events and people have laid on them on the ground and loved them."

Need for more beds

Her group has made three so far and is working on their fourth, with the hope of getting 11 to donate to a men's shelter downtown Fredericton.

The men's shelter has 39 beds for nightly use but a minimum of 50 people don't have a place to sleep on a nightly basis, she said. This type of project has been done before to send mats overseas, but Flores saw a need for a local use.

"I like the idea of the old sewing circles, an opportunity for people to come together and work together on a project that has a great environmental application, you know you're upcycling the plastic bags and giving them a second life before they're recycled, but you're also helping people in your community."

Community project

They are collecting bags at grocery stores and recycling centres. The project has captured people in the community, Flores said, noting how it is a great second use for the bags and a way to get people involved.

"What's really cool is they're beautiful, they're very practical and useable, people don't even know that they're plastic when they see them from a distance," Flores said.

"I've seen teenaged boys embrace the concept and love it, there's something about the tactile aspect of weaving that is really rewarding for people and it's really fun to see."

With files from Shift