By Lidia Di Nallo, Freelance Journalist
While a mattress made out of milk bags may sound uncomfortable to the average Canadian, for some families in Africa, it is the difference between sleeping on the ground. The children and staff at Leonardo Da Vinci Academy Daycare have embarked on this innovative project that puts recyclables to a good and honourable use.
The “Milk Bag Project” is part of Daycare Services’ Green Initiative. When this humanitarian project was introduced to daycare personnel back in March, LDVA Daycare Technician, Ms. Carmela Buttino, made it a priority for her daycare to get involved. Daycare staff, teachers, parents, students, the community and a milk bag printing company, are all contributing milk bags. The daycare has already collected 12,000 of them.
“Our goal is to crochet 14 mats by December, but at the rate we’re going, we’ll definitely surpass that,” said Ms. Carmela.
Twelve mats are in the works. The daycare staff and three grandmother volunteers usually meet at lunch time to crochet the mats. The children have taken care of the initial cutting of the plastic strips and the joining of the strips. The strips are then rolled into a ball ready to crochet.
Ms. Carmela’s husband, Mario Buttino, is also lending a hand. He passes the milk bags through a meat cutter to make strips. The educators are now teaching the students how to crochet.
The mats are made by crocheting and looping together numerous milk bag strips. The mats are not difficult to make since only one basic crochet stitch is required. However, it may take some practice to work with the plastic. Many have found that a little bit of experience with yarn can be helpful in dealing with the plastic.
It can take up to 500 outer milk bags to make one child sleeping mat. Why milk bags? The outer printed milk bags that most of us carelessly throw away are perfect for making sleeping mats because their plastic is durable and repels insects while still being somewhat soft for sleeping on. The “Milk Bag Project” presents a sustainable alternative for these non-biodegradable bags since the biodegradable ones aren’t made to last and stand up to use.
Due to their durability, it will be many years before the mats are worn out enough to be recycled in their target countries. Even without recycling facilities, it is likely that the families will find a way to conserve and reuse the plastic, rather than simply throwing it away.
These mats perform double duty—using existing bags for sleeping mats gives beds to families who would otherwise be sleeping on the ground and helps to keep the plastic out of landfills and oceans.
The “Milk Bag Project” is only one in a series of sustainability projects already carried out in the daycare. Under the supervision of Daycare Green Initiative Advisor, Maddie Guerlain, the daycare group has already made flower pots out of newspaper so that they may be planted directly in the soil. The daycare also makes lunchtime place mats out of material in order to reduce the children’s use of paper napkins.
Lidia Di Nallo is the niece of LDVA Daycare Educator Lidia Barillaro. She is a journalist for Alternative Channel, an international web-TV focused on sustainable development and humanitarian causes. Lidia is reporting on LDVA’s “Milk Bag Project” for the website. Visit http://www.alternativechannel.tv.