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Plastic Bags Find New Life In Mats For Homeless

By Shawn Chitnis

LONE TREE, Colo. (CBS4) – A resident at a senior living community saw a story on TV about making mats for the homeless out of plastic bags and decided to make her own for people in need across Colorado.

"Just a quick a little blurb and I thought, 'Well that's really neat, you know?'" said Kim Carney, a former math teacher living at MorningStar at RidgeGate. "I have to be doing something, I just can't be sitting, looking at the trees."

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She started crocheting the mats two months ago and has convinced others in that time to help her with the project. She estimates it takes 42 hours to complete one mat, working on it for part of the day over two weeks. There are almost 500 plastic bags in a single mat, running six feet in length and two feet wide.

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"It's fun to decide, 'Oh I think I'll put a little yellow here, a little bit of grey on either side,'" she said. "I like the idea of recycling."

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There is a growing pile of plastic bags at the community; some are donated without ever being used. But Carney wants people to get rid of the ones that came from a store or delivery service and now just sit in someone's home. She wants to recycle as many as she can, giving them a second purpose with someone new.

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"They're very sturdy, they're very comfortable," she said. "It provides insulation from the ground, the cold ground, it's waterproof."

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Carney knows that some people may not have any other option but the street to sleep on and these mats can make their situation even slightly more pleasant.

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"For the homeless that won't go into a shelter, it's very beneficial for them," she said. "Plastic bags are very useful in many ways."

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Another reason why she enjoys this project is that she can do other activities while she crochets each mat. It is a method that is easier on the hands of the women helping her out and a style that is most appropriate for the material. The process includes cutting the bags, creating a ball of "plarn" or plastic yarn and then crocheting the mat. Carney plans to make adjustments once someone that is homeless tries it out and makes suggestions.

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"I'm excited to get the feedback," she said. "Just because I need something to do, I will make them as long as there are bags to be worked on."

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To reach out to Kim Carney and find out how you can help, contact MorningStar at RidgeGate: (720) 545-1645.

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Shawn Chitnis reports weeknights for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Email him story ideas at and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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