Don’t worry, you’re not the first person to have no idea what “plarn” is! But truth be told, it is a rapidly growing trend-slash-hobby that uses repurposed plastic bags to create beautiful and functional items. Now, I dont mean useless fluffy stuff that just takes up space on a shelf, but truly useful items that are pleasing to the eye as well. A short list would include:
Tote bags, carry-alls, and purses
Floor mats and rugs
Baskets of all sizes and shapes
Hats! Great for keeping rain and sun off of one’s head!
Sleeping mats for camping or other outdoor use
Seat covers to dress up patio furniture
Of course, every ceative individual could come up with their own ideas, these are just a few! But how in the world does it work, and why would anyone go to the trouble?
Consider this fact: In the United States alone, there are aproximately 100 billion plastic shopping bags used every year. You read that right, every year. While recycling them seems like a good idea, the sad reality is that most of those bags end up in our landfills with all the other garbage. What’s the big deal about that, you ask?
First, it takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce that many plastic bags, another ridiculously scary number, but it’s true. And as if that is not bad enough, it will take at least 1,000 years for those plastic bags to degrade. That’s a really long time, and every year the bags just continue to pile up. Sounds pretty icky, right?
And if that isn't startling enough, consider the impact those plastic bags have on the critters who inhabit the planet. Our oceans and waterways also accumulate plastic bags which can be literally lethal to wildlife. What can be done?
Well, one obvious answer is to stop producing such a huge amount of non-biodegradable material in the first place. That’s a given. Beyond that, we must consider the material that has already been produced and is right here…waiting. What do we do with it?
This is where “plarn” arrives on the scene! Rather than pile it all up in landfills, these plastic shopping bags can easily be turned into a material quite similar to yarn made from cotton, nylon, wool, or any other textile, except that it is plastic. Obviously, there are limits on what sort of items one would want to make from plastic, but as we can see from the short list above there are many items that work perfectly well. And while even those items will eventually themselves break down and need to be discarded, the point is to try to use that material in some positive way while it is still here.
Consider these handsome baskets, made entirely from plarn!
The process of producing plarn varies because there are several varieties of finished product ranging from very thick strands made from entire bags, down to very fine threads made of narrow strips of plastic bags spun on a spindle that can be used for very detailed projects. For example, a mat used for sleeping on while camping would be made from intact bags so that the finished product is thick and cushioned, while a small purse might be made from much finer material so that a finer, detailed product is the result.
Curious as to how this all works? Stay tuned, because we are developing a step-by-step tutorial that will be ready soon! Meanwhile, start saving those plastic bags and get ready to create something beautifully useful with them!