Plastic bags giving comfort to the homeless ...

An interview with Anna Donis from New Life For Old Bags at Green Festival Chicago 2013.When we first checked in at the Green Festival media desk, we noted the type of stories that we were looking for, and one of the specific things that was suggested to us was the New Life for Old Bags booth.

This is a group that operates on several levels, first of all, as one might guess from their name, they are trying to make use of one of the modern world’s most used-and-discarded items, the plastic shopping bag. What they produce with these are sleeping mats for the next area of interest, the homeless. Plus, they utilize volunteer groups and create activities for senior homes in the process.

Our project, New Life for Old Bags (NLOB), helps the environment by reusing plastic bags and aids the homeless. NLOB is a collaboration of volunteers of all ages and abilities. Participants repurpose plastic bags to make make plastic yarn (“plarn”), which is crocheted to make sleeping mats for the homeless.

Most discarded plastic bags end up in landfills – for many, many, many years. Plastic bags, found in our oceans, harm or kill marine wildlife. Plastic bags are also fatal to land animals who mistakenly consume them. In places worldwide, plastic bags have been banned due to environmental concerns.

Their founder, Ruth Wersler, was not yet at the show when we came by their booth, so we had a chat with volunteer Anna Donis …

In making the bags (I’d have pointed you to the illustrated .pdf, but it appears you need to join their Facebook group to get access to the files) strips are cut across the bag, and the resulting “loops” are then connected together into a long rope, which is bundled up and eventually delivered to a retirement home where volunteers crochet them into the mats. I was, frankly, rather surprised to hear that it takes over 80 hours to make one of these mats … which is probably why, in their first couple of years, they’ve so far only been able to distribute a few more than 800 of them.

They have a “Work Day Party” every first Saturday of the month (from 10am to 1pm), at a church at 6525 W. Irving Park … more info can be obtained by contacting the group at

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