Student creating sleeping mats out of plastic bags for people experiencing homelessness

The sleeping mats are made from plastic bags, diverting waste from the environment

Tekla Mattila started the project last week and already has half a mat complete (Kelly Skjerven/Daily Herald)

A high school student is blown away by the response they’ve gotten from a project they just started last week.

Tekla Mattila, Grade 12 student at Prince Albert Collegiate Institute, thought of the idea of turning plastic bags into sleeping mats. The project is part of Caring For Our Watersheds, a competition hosted by Nutrien that challenges students to come up with an idea to improve watersheds.

Mattila said they grew up fortunate and was taught to care about others, which inspired them in choosing this cause.

“I’m thinking about giving the mats to an LGBT organization because that’s something that I’m very passionate about and I know that there’s lots of issues with homelessness within the community and if I can give back to a community that’s helped me a lot that’d be awesome, “ Matilla said.

It takes 500 to 700 plastic bags to make a single sleeping mat. The mats are waterproof, bug resistant and insulated.

Matilla explained to make the sleeping mats, the plastic bag is cut into loops and then knotted together until there’s a long enough strand to roll into a ball. From there, the plastic strands are crocheted into a sleeping mat.

Matilla crocheted half a mat using plastic bags donated by family and friends in their close contact bubble.

Plastic bag donations can be dropped off outside the North West doors of Prince Albert Collegiate Institute. All donations are isolated in a shed for three days to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Matilla’s teacher, Kylie Emmerson shared the idea on Facebook asking for plastic bag donations. There are people collecting in Saskatoon, Regina, Martensville and other communities across the province.

The Facebook post now has over 930 shares and 79 comments.

Both Matilla and Emmerson are impressed by the response the project is getting.

“People’s response has just been mind-blowing, I was thinking OK maybe we can make one mat because it’ll just be my friends and family and then a couple of other people from school, but it’s seeing how many people are willing to help, I didn’t think it was going to turn into this kind of project and I am super glad it is able to so I’m super grateful for everyone who has stepped up to help,” Matilla said.

Matilla said class members will help with crocheting.

“I think we’re both just absolutely blown away by the support of the community and people across the province, Emmerson said.