Plarn toy bag

A toy bag created out of plastic bags, made by Moyer. The bag, made out of plastic yarn (plarn), will last at least a lifetime, maybe longer.

Plastic grocery bags are a problem. They must be recycled separately from other recyclables, so they can’t just be thrown in a recycling bin and they shouldn’t just be thrown in the trash. A local woman has found a way to address this issue while also addressing another.

Barbara Moyer, of Mebane, uses plastic grocery bags to make plarn – or plastic yarn – which she then uses to make waterproof mats and pillows for people experiencing homelessness and toy bags for children living in the hospital.

Plarn is made by cutting plastic grocery bags into strips, which are then strung together into a single long strand. Plarn can be made into a variety of useful items, which are waterproof and can last multiple lifetimes.

Moyer got into making items out of plarn after she was in a car accident and suffered major hand injuries. She had been told to do activities to keep her hands dexterous and, while healing, she read something in a magazine about reusing recyclable materials.

“So, I had about 200 bags, and I thought, ‘Well, there’s got to be something I can do with these,’” Moyer said. “So, one day, I was playing around with a couple of bags, and I started cutting them in different ways to figure out how I could use them. I came up with a way that I can cut bags into loops and loop the loops together to make plarn.”

That was roughly 10 years ago and, in the years since, Moyer has been making plarn mats and pillows, with toiletries included, and now toy bags, and distributing them to folks in storm shelters and to those experiencing homelessness. 

But rehabbing her hands is not the only of Moyer’s inspirations to create these supplies. Part of the reason she got into creating plarn items stems from her own experiences following a hurricane she was caught in around Port Aransas, Texas. 

“The hurricane hit and, of course, anybody that could come to the hotels came because they had elevated floors,” she said. “I gave up my room to a family, it was a rather large family and the kids were all sleeping on the floor and everything. I went out and slept in the hallway with just a blanket and a pillow and I thought to myself then, ‘Oh my gosh, this is just awful.’”

That was the first hurricane Moyer had personally experienced, and it opened her eyes to the devastating aftermath of a large storm. So, she began looking for ways to help. When she learned how to create plarn, the next step was a no-brainer.

“That made me think there’s got to be something that I continually can do to help, not just the homeless, but [for those experiencing] the aftermath of the damages of natural disasters, regardless of what kind of disaster,” Moyer said.

The positive impact on the planet of reusing plastic bags also pushed Moyer using plarn, realizing that most people didn’t take the time to dispose of the bags properly. 

“For every mat I make, a mat and a pillow, it’s 500 to 700 bags, that’s 500 to 700 bags that aren’t going into a recycling bin, they’re not going into a landfill, they’re not going out in the environment, they’re getting used for something that will last a couple of lifetimes,” she said.

Recently, Moyer connected online with a group of women, located throughout the United States and Canada, who also make items out of plarn to distribute to those in need in their own respective communities.

Moyer said the group has received multiple requests for plarn mats and pillows from shelters throughout California, on account of recent wildfires.

“So many people had to evacuate in less than 10 minutes, they didn’t even have time to pack suitcases or sheets or blankets or anything,” she said.

While Moyer enjoys knitting plarn bags, mats and pillows, the process is very time and labor intensive. It takes her roughly two weeks to make a mat, so she could use some help.

Anyone who can crochet or knit can help create these plarn essentials, Moyer said, so she hopes any community members who are able to lend a hand will take the chance to do so whenever they can.

Moyer also noted she could always use more plastic bags, as a lot of times she doesn’t have enough to create any items.

“Sometimes I have a period where I’m not doing anything because I just haven’t accumulated enough resources yet – primarily any kind of plastic bag,” she said. “So, I have to wait until I have enough resources to start over again and make another mat.”

If anyone has extra plastic bags around, or would like to help Moyer create thse plarn items, please reach out to her at (336) 524-7358.