Incredible, Uplifting Use for Old Plastic Bags: Sleeping Mats for the Homeless

Before you throw away that plastic grocery bag, consider this: It could be helping the homeless get a better night’s sleep. 

The volunteers at Faith Westwood United Methodist Church in Omaha, Neb., understand that little fact about the humble plastic bag. Every week, the group turns thousands of them into sleeping mats for the homeless. Why? In winter, homeless shelters in the area are often filled to capacity, leaving people no option but to sleep on the floor. And that’s where the mats come in, providing some comfort to those who need it most.

It takes more than 1,000 plastic bags to make one mat. Hundreds have been made, but one woman, volunteer Marilynn Jones, has made more than anyone, drawing from skills she learned 70 years ago. She usually knocks out two mats each week.

“They tell me I’ve done 248. I don’t keep track,” she told KMVT News. “I think the fact that I’m making something worthwhile, where I know where it goes and people that use it need it — I don’t like to just crochet for an afghan or something. That doesn’t help me. I just need to do something for someone else.” 

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It’s a perfect use of upcycling, using something so common that, after all, won’t decompose for up to 1,000 years in a landfill — as well as a wonderful act of giving.

Interested in making a plastic bag mat yourself? Check out this instructional video, or amend those instructions and make a plastic bag rug. If you decide to crochet a mat to gift to a shelter, ask your local shelters to see if they’d be interested in accepting it.

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