Student organizes plastic bag collection to create cushions for homeless to sleep on

Recyclable materials are sorted into different piles at the K-State Recycling Centers on March 10, 2016. (Archive photo by Miranda Snyder | The Collegian)

Dining halls like Kramer and Van Zile are producing an excess amount of plastic bag waste, and Andrew Phipps, freshman in industrial engineering, wanted to take action.

“I’m hoping, in the end, the dining halls will shy away from using plastic bags,” Phipps said.

Phipps connected with William Spiegel, Kansas State’s recycling supervisor, to organize an event to collect plastic bags in designated bins.

Often, plastic bags are not recycled because collectors need to reach a certain quota to send the bags to manufacturers. However, Spiegel said the turnout has been excellent.

Spiegel designated high-traffic areas, like the Kramer and Van Zile courts, and added extra bins around campus to collect more plastic bags. So far, the bins have collected eight trash cans full of plastic bags.

Initially, Phipps wanted to find a way to use the plastic bags on campus but found a better idea on the Bed of Bags Facebook page.

“I feel like there’s a lot of stuff sitting around, and I want people to have everything they need to live,” Phipps said.

The project involves weaving bags to create cushions for the homeless in Kansas City, Missouri, to sleep on.

After sorting through the bags and ensuring their cleanliness, Phipps punctures a hole in the bags to create more lateral strength. Next, he ties a slip knot and repeats the process to create a chain of plastic bags.

Once Phipps ties a chain with 600 to 700 plastic bags, he begins to weave the mat. Weaving the mats takes between an hour and an hour and a half.

After the mats are completed, Phipps will send them to Free Hot Soup, an organization in Kansas City dedicated to providing resources and improving the lives of the homeless population.

The cushions are sent to Kansas City because many of the homeless in the area sleep directly on the concrete.

Spiegel already made signs out of recycled materials like refuge cans and will continue to work with Phipps on this project.

“We’re all here to work together, we all make a difference,” Spiegel said. “We are all a team.”

Phipps wants to continue the project until the dining halls decrease their use of plastic bags.

“Making the mats is like making food for your friends,” Phipps said. “Just as you want the food to be as good as if you were eating it, you want the mats to be as good as if you were sleeping on them.”

Phipps is also working to donate coats to the Free Hot Soup organization. Locations of the collection bins can be found in the K-State Today archives. Students and other people looking to contribute can talk to Phipps or Hands On for more information.