Recycling, repurposing, helping others
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – We Are Plarners celebrated six years with plastic instead of the traditional iron Feb. 9, showcasing with the mats they create from shopping bags to help people locally and worldwide.
The group repurposes used plastic shopping bags, cutting them into loops then connecting them into strands of plastic yarn, or plarn, which is then crocheted into mats, which are donated to homeless people, refugees and other marginalized people both locally and around the world.
Founder Rita Carioti of Southgate said the group began with the idea of sharing one’s gifts to help other people. As an empty nester in 2016, she realized that one of the items on her bucket list was to found a group that would give back to others.
“I love to craft and I love art,” she said. “The people here are not crafters; they are just volunteers who want to help, and it makes such a difference.”
Carioti said it has been exciting to start the group and help it expand. She said they are a non-denominational group and welcome everyone.
She said by making plarn, they are repurposing plastic bags and keeping them out of landfills.
Carioti said once she discovered the possibilities of plarn, she realized that it could be used to create sleeping mats for homeless and other disenfranchised people. She used Facebook to find people who shared her enthusiasm for plarning and was excited to find others who shared her interest and passion.
She started with 20 volunteers in 2017 and estimates that they now have nine workshop locations with countless volunteers.
Carioti said Little Dresses for Africa is using their mats as flooring at a day care center in Africa.
“You can use it for anything,” she said. “As a bed, as a mattress, to sit on. It’s a great product.”
They are currently able to store some of the donated bags in the basement of Bacon Library in Wyandotte.
Carioti said it takes 650 to 700 plastic bags to produce enough plarn to crochet one sleeping mat. She estimates that the group has repurposed more than one million plastic bags to date.
“That is inspirational right there,” she said.
Carioti said they will keep plarning as long as there are plastic bags available to repurpose.
To date, the group has donated crocheted plastic mats to: All Saints, Blessing Box, Blessed Hope, Detroit’s Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Christ Net Services of Taylor, Crossroads of Michigan in Detroit, Downriver for Veterans, First Baptist Church of Wyandotte, Little Dresses for Africa, St. Aloysius in Detroit, Reaching All People In Need of Assistance in Southgate, Trinity St. Marks of Detroit, Wayne Continuum of Care, Waynewright Community Meals of Wyandotte, and the Ukraine Convoy of Hope.
Dry, clean plastic bags can be dropped off at any of the workshop locations during the meeting times.
The group currently meets at 10 locations: Atria Kinghaven in Riverview, from 2:20 to 4:30 p.m. Thursdays; First Baptist Church of Wyandotte, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays; Our Lady of the Woods in Woodhaven from 10 a.m. to noon on the first and third Wednesdays of the month; Roosevelt High School in Wyandotte; St. Cyprian of Riverview, from 6 to 8 p.m. on alternate Tuesdays from March through October; St. George Episcopal of Milford, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. every second and fourth Tuesday; St. Roch of Flat Rock, from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays; St. Vincent Pallotti of Wyandotte, from 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays; Taylor Ford Senior Center, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Wednesdays; and Taylor Commons, a new site with the meeting time to be determined.
For more information about Plarners, go to the group’s Facebook page, We Are Plarners.