Service project calls for plastic bag donations to help the homeless



(Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)

By Marnie Leonard

Next time you get back from the grocery store, don’t throw away your plastic bags — give them to SIU student Rowen Harder.

Harder, a sophomore from Unadilla, Neb., studying theater, has taken up a collection of these bags for a project meant to serve Carbondale’s homeless community.

“Usually these things just get thrown away,” Harder said. “This is a way to use them to help people.”


Plastic bags are laid flat, cut into strips and looped together to make “plarn,” or plastic yarn, that can be woven into sleeping mats. Harder said this material is ideal because it’s lightweight, easily washed, insulated and doesn’t attract bugs.

Harder said it takes anywhere from 400 to 700 bags for one mat, depending on its thickness. She has received about 200 bags so far.

When Harder finishes the mats, they will be donated to the Good Samaritan House of Carbondale, which provides shelter, food and emergency financial assistance to those who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless.

Plastic bag donations will be accepted for the rest of the fall semester and throughout the spring semester.

Bags can be dropped off at the office of Holly Hurlburt, an SIU history professor, located in Faner Hall room 3272. Hurlburt’s office hours are from 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays, but bags can be hung from her door handle at any time.

Donations can also be taken to the Theater Department main office in the Communications building, or Harder said she can arrange to meet on campus to pick up donations.

Harder said she encourages anyone going home for Thanksgiving to raid their family’s stash of bags to donate to the project.


“Everybody has that pantry or drawer stuffed full of these bags,” Harder said. “Here, they can be put to good use.”

Anyone who has bags to give or wants to help Harder weave the bags into mats can reach her at [email protected] or 618-534-1392.

Staff writer Marnie Leonard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @marsuzleo.

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