Shelby Tillema is a senior at Lakewood High School and is very active in her after-school clubs. She came up with the bright idea to aid the homeless in her community as cold weather sets in. As a bonus it reduces the amount of plastic bags flying around her area too.
Shelly Tillema told JPS-TV in an interview that she saw a news report about ‘Bev’s Bag Brigade,’ a group of women who are able to produce hundreds of ‘plarn’ mats for the Volunteers of America since 2009.
What is Plarn?
Plarn is simply plastic yarn. You can use this yarn to crochet warm mats or plastic blankets that are indeed quite insulating.
Every year Bev’s Bag Brigade produces hundreds of plarn sleeping mats. As an extra bonus they reuse plastic grocery bags to create them.
The blankets are donated to Volunteers of America. Then the VOA hands them over to anyone who needs them.
This is what inspired Tillema to start a school club and rally fellow students to do the same. Thus Lakewood’s Plarn Club was founded and students began turning plastic shopping bags into useful items.
Plastic bags can take more than 500 years to photo-degrade according to the Center of Biological Diversity so these mats are quite durable especially considering their extra density due to being woven together.
What’s more is that these bags are less likely to be blown into waterways which can harm marine animals who mistakenly consume plastic bags thinking that they are food.
‘You take recycled plastic grocery bags or just any plastic bags and you cut them into strips, and you tie those strips together and that makes this thing called plarn, plastic bag yarn,’ president and club founder Shelby Tillema shared to JPS-TV.
Once the plarn has been created, some of the students will then crochet them into sleeping mats which are actually comfortable, surprisingly soft, durable, and water-resistant.
When the students finish the mats they are donated to Jeffco Action Center where they are distributed to homeless in need.
An average family in the U.S can use and take home more than 1,500 plastic bags a year.
‘It’d be awesome if other Jeffco schools imitated this idea,’ Shelby shared.