Sault women making sleeping mats out of plastic bags

Diverting plastic waste from the landfill while providing a portable bed of sorts for the homeless is the aim of a pair of women from Sault Ste. Marie.

Abbi Johnston and Cathrine Van Atta have been taking time out of their days since February to make sleeping mats out of plastic bags. The process begins by making plastic yarn or "plarn."

"Once we have that plastic yarn together, it’s just a basic crochet stitch," Johnston said. "The mats are two and a half feet wide by six feet long. So you’re just doing basic crocheting to get to those dimensions."

Johnston says it takes up to 750 plastic bags to make just one sleeping mat. It also takes a lot of time.

"The crocheting itself about 10 to 12 hours, but the plarn making actually takes longer. So around 15 to 20 hours possibly on the plarn. So all in, about 30 hours," she said.

Van Atta makes the plarn. She said it takes 50 plastic bags to make one ball. The pair’s labour has already paid off with one of the mats in use by a local homeless person.

"Some feedback that we got was that the mat is very light and he’s liking it a lot," Van Atta said. "It’s warm too - they hold in a lot of heat."

Van Atta said the project achieves two important goals.

"Not only is getting rid of the plastic waste from the landfills, which take years and years to disintegrate - I don’t think they ever do, and it is also keeping people off the ground," she said. "Especially in the Sault, we’ve got quite a bit of homeless people right now."

Those wishing to participate - or donate plastic bags - can reach out through Zero Waste Sault Ste. Marie or Sault Ste Marie Helping Hands