Students support environment by helping refugees

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UVU LDS students clean up the environment with the help of Stitching Hearts Worldwide by turning plastic bags into sleeping mats. This project has been going on since the beginning of January every Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Institute Building, with the final day being April 17.

“It’s not only helping refugees, but our environment. You can’t recycle [plastic bags], they just get torn up in the machines,” said Tyler Harper, a geomatics major and junior.

In a video from Chicago, it shows the destructive aspects that these bags have on equipment; the same goes for Utah.

Sophia Nichols, a spokeswoman for the SLC green department, told the Salt Lake Tribune the main focus of  “reduce and reuse,” for plastic bags is for people to put them to use rather than a blue bin being the final solution.

Tyler and other students are turning these hazards into “plarn,” or plastic yarn. Basically, this means tying the bags together to make rope, then weaving them in such a way to make a mat. Each mat takes 1,000 bags, and with 61 made so far, that’s 61,000 bags no longer polluting mother nature.

“We got started doing this about two years ago. We go to different organizations (in this case UVU) and put on an event,” said Kristie Wright, leader of Stitching Hearts. “We send these items overseas to refugees flooding the borders of Jordan, Bangladesh and Syria.”

Not only does Institute weave plarn mats, they also use leftover plastic bags to fill pillow casings, make dolls, and other minor creature comforts that give many refugees and homeless the hope and help they need.

Quilts and backpacks containing toothpaste and other toiletries were also being made. Stitching Hearts doesn’t just help refugees, they also make these products for United Way, which helps homeless people and families here in Utah.

In a comprehensive study done by the state of Utah at the end of 2017, less than 1 percent of the state’s population — or 2,852 — reported being homeless.

Stitching Hearts Worldwide provides the bags, looms and sewing equipment and other supplies that make this all possible. Since Institute started working with Stitching Hearts at the beginning of January, they have made a total of 388 twin size quilts, 140 baby quilts, 333 backpacks with supplies and 250 machined quilts.

According to Harper, the members of Institute hope to continue making these mats long into the future.

“I love it; it’s a good feeling to make all these mats. It feels like I am doing something for a greater good,” said Tyler Merrill, an exercise science major.