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Adding a new twist to recycling

By Sherri Ellington Ever heard of ‘plarn’? Some local folks are helping an Atlanta church do some darn good things with plarn. They are helping the homeless and the ecology at the same time. The Gordon State College Newman Club and students at St. George’s Episcopal School are gathering the raw ingredients for it ‘“ used grocery bags ‘“ and sending it to St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church in Jonesboro where it is being made into lightweight sleeping mats for the homeless. ’They fold the bags and snip off the handle and very bottom seal,’ said Dr. Richard Schmude, who said a student member of the club suggested the goodwill ‘“ and good Earth stewardship ‘“ project. ’They end up with four loops the same size as the bags which are linked to form a sort of quilt piece.’ That ‘˜quilt square’ is then twisted and turned into an eight-foot length of plastic yarn, from which comes the term plarn. That, in turn, is rolled up with other lengths until the plarner has a volleyball sized roll. Then he or she starts crocheting. Each bedroll uses 120 plastic bags that would otherwise end up in a landfill. The only financial cost to make a bedroll is a $2.50 crochet hook. ’It’s woven very nicely,’ he said. ‘There are videos on YouTube that show how to do it. The videos last about eight to 10 minutes and show the finished product.’ The mats, which can be coordinated according to store brand bag colors into various designs, weigh about two pounds and roll up easily. ’They have a handle so the homeless person can put it on his or her shoulder and carry it around,’ said Dr. Schmude. ‘It helps them in at least two ways. It’s softer than concrete and, if they’re sleeping in the grass, it protects them from moisture, insects and other substances.’ In the month the Newman Club has been collecting the bags ‘“ the project was proposed at the Aug. 28 meeting ‘“ members have amassed nearly 15 pounds of them. Ten have already been delivered and five more are filling his office. ’We’ll keep going at least for the semester. A lot of faculty and staff are participating. At St. George’s, the students are bringing them in,’ said Dr. Schmude. ‘That’s going to be a lot of bags. They can probably surpass the amount Gordon has collected if they get excited about it.’ For information on the project or to donate grocery bags, call Dr. Schmude at 678-359-5832 or email

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