Nfld. & Labrador

Turning trash into 'plarn' sleeping mats in Grand Falls-Windsor

Students at College of the North Atlantic's Grand Falls-Windsor campus found a way to recycle plastic bags and help homeless people, with the community's help.

Yarn made out of plastic bags is being put to good use by CNA students

Exploits Valley High students join College of the North Atlantic students in Grand Falls-Windsor to turn plastic bags into 'plarn' sleeping mats for homeless people. (Submitted by Stephanie Janes)

Too often found flying around in the wind, piling up in the woods, students at College of the North Atlantic's Grand Falls-Windsor campus found a new life for plastic bags. 

"We were looking for a way to use up a lot of bags that might benefit other people," says project manager Stephanie Janes. 

Janes is with the campus's Enactus group, which works on entrepreneurial projects that focus on social issues. 

Stephanie Janes is a second-year community studies student at CNA Grand Falls-Windsor. (Submitted)

"Lots of people make 'plarn,' or plastic yarn, to crochet various things," she told CBC Radio One's Central Morning on Friday. 

Her group got the idea to take plarn and crochet it into sleeping mats for homeless people online, and quickly set to work. 

Exploits Valley High students make 'plarn' in Grand Falls-Windsor. (Submitted by Stephanie Janes)

Janes said they first sort the plastic bags by size, pile them up to cut off the bottoms and the handles and slice the bags into strips. 

"So you end up with a whole bunch of loops. And then you kind of chain-link the loops together and you keep going and going until you have a nice-sized ball of plastic yarn that you can work with," she said. 

A ball of plarn is ready to be crocheted into a sleeping mat. (Submitted by Stephanie Janes)

Turning 10,000 bags into 20 mats

​"It's really easy. I've seen kids do it," Janes said, adding the crocheting is the hardest part, and even that can be learned within an hour or so. 

Janes's group is hoping to get 20 sleeping mats done, using up 10,000 bags. 

"We're hoping to get them into the hands of homeless people mainly in Newfoundland, so the majority would be in St. John's, where people are actually sleeping on the streets."

A completed plarn sleeping mat is shown rolled out and rolled up for easy portability. (Submitted by Stephanie Janes)

They're taking their plarn mats to a regional Enactus competition in Halifax. With fingers crossed they'll carry on to the nationals, where they could win a grant for their group. 

On Friday, the CNA students invited people in Grand Falls-Windsor to help them make some mats to meet their goal. 

"The plarn part is really quick, like five minutes, and the crochet part, it's just a simple, like, single crochet stitch, so most people pick it up within half an hour or an hour," Janes said.

"Then they take it with them and try and work on it at home."

With files from Central Morning