Students Use Plastic Bags to Make Mats for Homeless

PLEASANT HILL, Iowa  --  We've all seen those plastic bags blowing around in the wind, getting stuck in trees and fences. A metro fifth grade class saw that firsthand when students visited Metro Waste Authority's landfill. They decided to put those bags to use and help others.

Students at Four Mile Elementary are making mats with strips of plastic cut from plastic bags. "We're working on these looms that are mats that homeless people can lay on," said 5th grade student Jenevieve Kuriki.

It started as a class project for the students after they learned about the effects of plastic bags on the environment. Addelinn Rickertsen said, “I see how they can blow around at landfills. They’re really light.”

Kuriki added, “It’s dangerous to other animals because it would hurt them because they would think it’s food and it’s not good for them."

Kim McCoy-Parker, the class' teacher said, "How we could help both the environment and the homeless at the same time, and then we started this project building mats for the homeless."

They started the project in October, and all 19 classes now take part. It takes 400 plastic bags to make one mat.

"Everybody could collect bags and even our littlest kids, our first graders could cut strips, so they could cut and cut strips for the older kids to weave, so everybody is involved," said McCoy-Parker.

A mini recycling grant from Metro Waste Authority paid for the materials to make the looms. A staff member built the looms. Students cut and weave during work parties before and after school. Some even take the project home.

"I've been working on this by myself, and I take it home almost every day because I just love doing this because it helps people and it's really fun to do," said Kuriki.

So far, the students have made 12 mats. They'll deliver the first batch to Central Iowa Shelter and Services before winter break and plan to make even more by Earth Day in April.

"I think the homeless guys or the homeless people will be really surprised and thanking us so much,” said student Zane Gifford.

No need to donate any plastic bags to the cause. McCoy-Parker said they always have a plentiful supply of bags students bring from home.