By Ren Wheeling
WINSTED, MN Turn on the news channel and there is story after story of how plastic waste is damaging the Earth. There is an area of just garbage in the ocean called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which measures about 617,800 square miles and contains an island of trash that is roughly the size of Texas. Turtles are being found with plastic straws in their nose or plastic six-pack rings around their neck. The world is swimming in plastic.
Many people try to help mitigate this issue by recycling, reusing containers, or even by refusing to use plastic at all, but there are many other ways to help save the Earth from this plastic invasion that aren’t as well known.
Linda Telecky of Winsted and Andrea Koeppe of Howard Lake have found a way to turn plastic into something positive.
Working with Weaving Love MN, Telecky and Koeppe collect used plastic grocery bags, and use their artistic abilities to make blankets for the needy from them. They hand the finished products over to Weaving Love, which then donates them to homeless shelters throughout Minnesota. The company has also partnered with various people to send the blankets to Haiti or to veterans.
The two work together very well. Koeppe cuts down the bags and ties them into “balls of yarn,” also known as plarn (plastic yarn), and Telecky crochetes them into large, strong blankets.
“It started out as kind of a mission project through First Presbyterian Church in Howard Lake, and we’ve all seen just how this Earth is choking on plastic,” Koeppe said. “I’ve heard of groups all over the country doing these things. It just seemed like such a wonderful, fun project, and it’s so vital.”
Telecky and Koeppe collect plastic bags mainly through drives at various churches, but they have also received them through other means.
“If I don’t go to Bible study one day, I will find them outside my door,” Telecky said. “People just drop them off here. We have to watch them, otherwise we will get overwhelmed with all these bags.”
Their main goal is to keep the plastic bags out of the ocean and out of the trees. “At least I am contributing somehow,” Telecky said. “There’s not much I can do, but it makes my heart feel good.”
A lot of effort goes into these projects. According to some reports, it takes about 500 to 700 bags to make a three-foot-by-six-foot blanket. Telecky estimated that one blanket takes her about two weeks if she puts all of her energy into it. If not, it can take a lot longer.
In the future, Telecky and Koeppe hope to speed up this process and increase efficiency by teaching others how it is done and having multiple hands to help. They aren’t quite ready to expand just yet, but they hope that by sharing what they do with the community, they can inspire others to take action to help the environment.