ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, or about 1,500 bags for each family, of which only 1% are returned for recycling — meaning the rest end up in landfills or as litter, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
Employees of Smith’s Food & Drug Stores around the country on Tuesday volunteered as part of the company-wide Make a Difference Day to promote recycling while simultaneously providing assistance to the homeless.
About a dozen Smith’s employees at the store on Paseo del Norte and Wyoming NE, sat around a table, where they took single-use plastic bags that had been returned to the store’s recycling bin, and cut each bag into four or five strips. Then they tied the strips together and rolled them into a large ball of plastic yarn called plarn, which will be sent to a local chapter of the nonprofit, Bags to Beds, where the plarn will be crocheted into sleeping mats for the homeless.
Each sleeping mat requires from 300 to 500 plastic grocery bags, and takes from 10 to 40 hours to complete, said Ron Griego a merchandiser for Smith’s in New Mexico.
Bags to Beds was founded in Utah in 2017 by college student Kaitlin McLean, who was looking for a way to help reduce plastic waste, assist people experiencing homelessness and bring the community together.
Since its founding, Bags to Beds has distributed over 150 crocheted bed mats and kept thousands of plastic bags out of the waste stream.
The Smith’s Make a Difference Day, is being held in conjunction with Parent company Kroger’s Zero Hunger/Zero Waste initiative in which all Kroger-owned stores rescue food before it goes bad and funnel it to local food banks and pantries for distribution to needy people and families.
Also as part of that initiative, all Kroger-owned stores, including Smith’s, will phase out single-use plastic bags and transition to reusable bags by 2025, Griego said.
Smith’s associate Carly Dilbeck volunteered to help create the balls of plarn because “I love recycling and think this is a fantastic way to recycle something that is almost never recycled,” she said. “It’s an all around win-win for our store, the community and the homeless.”
Further, said Smith’s online shopping associate Robert Peralta, the effort is “a great way to show that Smith’s cares.”
“I like the idea of recycling; it’s what we need to do for the environment,” he added.