Local organization recycling plastic bags into large totes to help flood victims

Posted at 11:39 AM, Apr 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-22 09:36:43-04

(WXYZ) — Plastic bags seem to be everywhere, but a local organization is trying to reuse them in a way that can be helpful to people when they need it the most.

Greg Martin is the director of DRAW Disaster Relief Network in Waterford. It sends supplies and volunteers to areas hit by natural disasters, but he recently added a new focus to its mission. It's called The Green Initiative.

"We thought, we care about people after disasters, but we should care about them before," Martin said. "And if we care about them before, what can we do to reduce our footprint and be environmentally friendly."

A few months ago, the group started collecting plastic bags. Martin's mom introduced him to turning that plastic into plastic yarn or "plarn" as they call it.

"It's yarn that's made out of plastic and you can crochet patterns," Martin said. "We thought what can we crochet that would be usable."

They came up with the idea to use the plastic bags to crochet them into large totes.

Recently, volunteers have been coming to DRAW's warehouse to make them. The totes are meant for victims of floods. Just last month, dozens of them were distributed to flooding victims in Nebraska and Iowa.

"Once you have a tote, it's reusable," Martin said. "It doesn't absorb water so contaminated water doesn't hurt it."

He says the response has been overwhelming at the volunteer crocheting sessions. So far, DRAW has recycled more than 40,000 plastic bags.

"The idea that we can turn this with no cost, it's labor intensive but no cost" Martin said. "We can create things that can help people in the moment they need it. That resonates with people."

To learn more about DRAW, go to: