Using good old-fashioned crafting skills, local women have found a creative way to help combat plastic pollution
One would have to be living under a rock not to be aware of the fact that discarded plastic is choking our oceans and our land, with grocery bags and plastic bread wrappers taking a large portion of the blame. Unfortunately there are still many retailers worldwide that have yet to switch to alternative packaging. South Africa is no exception.
A crafting medium called plarn – plastic yarn – is slowly helping to save the planet. Plarn is made from discarded supermarket bags, bread wrappers and other plastic packaging. The bags are cut into strips and rolled into balls (much like knitting wool), then crocheted or knitted, creating a wide range of attractive, functional articles. Apart from the ecological benefits, the craft provides a means for people to earn an income by making and selling the items. Pot plant holders, shoppers, laundry bins, throws … just about anything that can be crocheted, knitted or macraméd can be crafted from plarn.
Here in Durban there’s a team of busy crafters doing just that. Ilumbo – which means magic in Zulu – is one of the initiatives of the Magic Bean Foundation headed by Glenashley residents Lorraine Evans and Shelley Stievenart.
“Our main aim is to empower people though skills development,” says Lorraine. “We also focus on sustainability and having as little impact on the planet as possible. We enjoy handcrafting and creating, and wanted to pass this on to enable unemployed people to earn an income.
“We hold workshops within communities with a trainer who has been taught the skills and can translate. We demonstrate the art of cutting the plarn followed by a basic crochet stitch. It’s interesting in that we’ve found that many of the older members have been taught the skill but haven’t practised it for several years. For the Ilumbo project we work closely with six women from Umlazi G Section which has become known as G Magic.”
G Magic team members Nozipho Mbatha and Zotha Mkhize shared some facts: “It takes about 12 hours to make a handbag and one day for a sun hat. A laundry basket takes about two to three days. Cutting and rolling the plarn takes a lot of time, especially when cutting 40 to 50 bags needed to make the laundry basket. My son helps by cutting the strips,” smiles Nozipho.
Many of the crafters pass the skill on to their families. The team also create eco-friendly products as promotional gifts for companies, and are happy for the public to get involved by collecting plastic packets and bread bags.
Find out more about this and Magic Bean Foundation’s other initiatives: m.facebook.com/magicbeanfoundation