Wil-Mat Project: Reusing Plastic Bags To Help The Homeless

Jan 24 2012

For the past 18 months 89-year-old Wilma Groh and her group, Wil-Mat Project, have made dozens of mats made entirely out of plastic bags for the homeless! Groh was named “Greatest Person of the Day” by Huffington Post on January 9 for this incredible project. 

The project began as a simple way to help the homeless sleep more comfortably on the streets but the group soon realized that they are helping to keep plastic bags out of landfills (and the ocean too)!

Wil-Mat Project, which has grown to include 12 members, literally weaves plastic together to create these unique mats. The process begins by cutting plastic bags into 1-2 inch loops or rings, tying the pieces together end to end, rolling the plastic pieces into a ball of “plarn” (plastic yarn), and weaving exactly the same way as with yarn.

The mat is the size of a yoga mat, about 3 feet wide and six feet long, each using about 400 bags worth of plarn. 

As demand has grown for the plastic mat, the group has expanded their creations to include purses, tote bags, coasters, ornaments, flowers, and much more all made out of plastic bags! 

The group has sold $1,000 worth of items and all proceeds fund Storefront, a youth service which aims to get teens off the streets.

Wil-Mat Project is not worried about running out of plastic bags any time soon: not only are plastic bags distributed abundantly, but the group’s local church kindly collects bags for them and they still have 20,000 bags waiting to be turned into mats! 

Rather than supply, Groh has said that the group’s greatest need is volunteers to help. Those interested in helping out need not know how to crochet or weave, says Groh, there are plenty of tasks other than weaving that go into creating the mats.

At 89, Groh struggles with arthritis in her hands and near-blindness but these conditions have not stopped her from taking her project further and helping those in need.

Wilma Groh and the Wil-Mat Project are truly inspirational: With a little creativity, something as simple as making mats out of plastic bags can impact people and the planet in a BIG way.

Visit the Wil-Mat project Facebook page to learn more about the group and how you can help!

Source: MountHelixPatch Photos by: Eric Yates

  1. Danielle Mosser

    Excuse me but if you have a way to make the yarn and a certain pattern that you use to make these, could you possibly send them to me. A group at my school, the Recycling Club, is interested in making these. Keep in mind that they are a bunch of high school students so the simpler the better on the instructions.

    Thank you for your time.
    Danielle Mosser

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  2. We don’t have instructions on how to make the mats other than what is listed in the article:
    “The plastic bags are cut into loops or rings, each about 1-2 inches wide. The loops are then tied together, end to end, to create a kind of yarn, affectionately referred to as “Plarn.” From there, it’s rolled into a ball and the process of weaving is exactly the same”

    You can contact the Wil-Mat group for instructions and patterns by visiting their facebook page:
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wilmas-Wil-Mat-Crochet-Group-Recycle-Re-Purpose-Service/169890726395064
    Or you can google basic weaving patterns and instructions. Hope this helps!

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