Nfld. & Labrador

Saving the environment and reducing plastic waste, one 'plarn' bag at a time

Tonia Mercer crochets plastic bags into new, reusable plastic bags because she wants to do her part to help the environment.

Torbay woman crochets old plastic bags into new, reusable ones

Tonia Mercer shows off her plastic crocheted reusable bags. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

Crocheting is not an unusual hobby, but Tonia Mercer adds a twist that makes her fibre arts stand out from most.

Mercer spends her days turning plastic yarn — or plarn — into crocheted reusable shopping bags. She flattens out plastic shopping bags, then cuts them into strips of plastic yarn that she crochets into circular shopping bags, complete with handles.

What began as an unusual waste-reduction method has now become her passion.

"I love it because it's something that feels like I am making some small impact in terms of taking care of a big problem, which is the single-use plastic bags," Mercer said.

Tonia Mercer using knitting needles to crochet her strips of plastic bags into new reusable bags with handles. She sometimes uses a pattern and sometimes just goes for it. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

Plastic bag passion

Mercer says she was once famous for half-finishing crochet projects, eventually pushing them aside.

All that ended with plarn.

"I felt so good about using something that was an alternative product," she said. 

"It was taking a single-use bag and turning it into something that looks beautiful. And it also lasts for years and years."

These plastic bags are strung in the bushes near the retail park around Stavanger Drive. (Malone Mullin/CBC )

Mercer said her work is even more impacful at this time of year, as spring arrives and she can see the plastic bags scattered across her community. 

"You drive around the city now, as all the snow is melting, you're seeing a lot of single-use bags in the ditch or stuck on trees," she said. 

"I'm quite happy to see them go."

Small change, massive impact

Mercer's environmentally friendly actions haven't stopped with her homemade shopping bags. She also rides her bike everywhere in Torbay, and she recently stopped eating meat.

"A lot of people think, 'It's just me. What can I possibly do to make a difference?' If we think about it collectively and everybody does one small thing, it makes a massive impact," she said.

A closer look at Mercer's crocheted plastic bags. She says she favours the rounder bags because they stand up straight, which makes them easier to use. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

With a planned ban on plastic shopping bags coming in this province, Mercer says she has a plan in mind for a new yarn source, in case she runs out of single-use plastic bags.

"I'll switch gears then, and I'll start using all the T-shirts that end up going overseas and burned in the landfill over there," she said.

"I'll turn them into beautiful bags."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Malone Mullin

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