They call themselves bag ladies with a cause.
The bag ladies, led by Jeannine Ayers of Wyandotte and Donna Harki of Lincoln Park, take plastic shopping bags — the ones Americans use 100 billion of every year — and, wielding scissors, turn them into plarn.
The word plarn comes from the PL in plastic and the ARN in yarn.
The bag ladies meet at 6:30 p.m. every Tuesday at the Bacon Memorial Library in Wyandotte to work on making plarn, and then crocheting it into sleeping mats for the homeless.
“You don’t have to crochet to do this,”Harki said.
If you can use scissors, you can help.
The women take the used plastic bags that once held hamburger, milk, egg cartons, frozen peas and almost all the other things people buy and smooth them out together in a stack. Then they fold the bags properly (visit bagladieswithacause on Facebook to see exactly how it works), cut them into strips and join them with slip knots into long strands of plan. The strands are rolled up into giant balls.
Then the women who can crochet turn the plarn into sleeping mats 6 feet long to give to the homeless.
The finished mats go to a variety of nonprofit groups that help the homeless, including the Salvation Army, Crossroads and ChristNet.
One mat uses up 700 plastic shopping bags, keeping them out of landfills, where they take approximately 500 years to degrade into microplastics, which absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment even after that. According to Waste Management, only 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled.
The library has a big bin where people can donate their used plastic bags for the bag ladies to use.
The finished mats are surprisingly soft, and add a cushioned barrier between concrete or the ground for someone sleeping rough. Plarn mats shed water, and someone who’s not sleeping could wrap one around his shoulders to use as a raincoat of sorts.
“It’s got a lot of uses,” said Ayers, who’s been making plarn mats for about three years at churches and other locations all over Downriver.
The Wyandotte library contacted the bag ladies to bring the project there. It started on Jan. 22, and volunteers are showing up to help. The room where the plastic bags were being cut up on Feb. 19 was filled with chatter and laughter as the bag ladies worked. Camaraderie is an added benefit to the project, the women said.
They included Michele Wolowiec and Sierra Coark of Lincoln Park, Barb Moses and Jan Trzeciak of Allen Park, and Shannon Erskine of Wyandotte, who joined the project because she can crochet.
Coark said she first heard about the plarn project at Roosevelt High School, where she’s a student, and she knew she wanted to help.
Schools, including Summit Academy where Harki’s daughter works, and a dentist’s office in Taylor have gotten involved. Word is spreading about plarn.
“This helps the planet and keeps me and Jeannine out of trouble,” said Harki, a master crocheter. “It’s a way to pay it forward.”