Does your child like to do crafts? Does she want to help the environment at the same time? Look no further than the International Plastic Quilt Project, a traveling exhibit and project that helps keep plastic waste materials out of landfills while creating art.

History and Vision for the Future

The International Plastic Quilt Project started as a plastic awareness project in Portland, Oregon in 2007. At that time it was called “Leave No Plastic Behind.” The project took on the “international” name to recognize the global importance of climate change and plastic pollution. The group is a non-profit organization under the name “Create Plenty”, with a noble vision of a world without waste.

With a goal of raising awareness about environmental problems, the group also looks to provide solutions that make it easy for communities to reduce and reuse waste materials. They provide resources for educators so that plastic quilt crafting can take place in schools across the country and around the world. Director Cheryl Lohrmann would like to see more plastic quilts being made in more schools, and she says many volunteers are helping. She cites the “Plastic Pollution Coalition” in California as another group helping to address the problems of plastic pollution.

What is a Plastic Quilt?

Small 12 x 12 inch quilt squares are being made out of plastics in many schools across the country, which helps keep plastics out of trash and landfills. For example, a child will top his plastic bag based quilt square with other plastic materials such as plastic bottle caps, plastic baggies, plastic drink lids and straws, broken plastic toy parts, candy wrappers, and more. The squares are then put together to form a large quilt which eventually goes on tour to be exhibited in various locations. And it doesn't have to take place in school. Any child anywhere can make his or her own 12 x 12 inch plastic square at home to contribute! Schools can also sign up to participate or host the quilt exhibit if enough students have interest. Students and classes can submit quilt squares for possible contest prizes and/or to become part of the traveling quilt exhibit.

You can view a photo gallery slide show of past created plastic quilt squares (to spark more ideas for you and your child) here.

How Can My Child Contribute?

Looking for a way to join in? A printable template and directions for creating your own plastic quilt square are available on the Create Plenty website, here. They suggest using a 12 x 12 inch plastic bag as the base for the quilt square.

Students can assemble their plastic materials on top of the base with glue at first to set it in place, but then find ways to reinforce it with yarn, thread, or wire to make it stronger. Yarn needles and large mending or upholstery needles come in handy. Using hole punches or nail and hammer to poke large holes in harder plastics make it easy for little hands to sew.

If your child submits his square for use in the quilt, he could win a prize such as “Best New Pattern Design.” What's great, is that students can submit quilt squares at any time of year (although the contest may have deadlines).

Lohrmann says the website will soon have other educational and artistic templates online, such as information about animals affected by environmental damage, and how to create animal images. Teachers can extend the plastics and art/quilt lesson into other subject areas such as math, for example having kids measure, weigh, or chart the amount of plastics they are keeping out of landfills.

Other Ways to Contribute

Even if your child or student doesn't want to make a square, there are still other ways you can contribute to the cause. Create Plenty has other online resources for educators, your child can watch informational videos tailored to their grade level about the impacts of plastic waste on the environment. There are also directions for another craft activity called “Plarn,” making yarn out of plastic! The “Choking Hazards” video on the website includes a Learning Guide to help students understand dangers of plastics. The organization also encourages children to work in their own communities to come up with ideas for reducing plastic and other waste.

Recycle and Reuse in Your Own Community

Some ideas for recycling, reusing materials, and reducing waste in your own community include:

  • Have a “silverware drive” at your school--bring in real silverware for cafeteria use, thereby cutting down on use of plastic cutlery.
  • Recycle ink cartridges from computers; do a school-wide drive to help collect such cartridges from homes and then find a place in your town (often office supply stores) that recycles them.
  • Recycle batteries; do a school-wide drive to collect batteries and research to find a place to take them for recycling.
  • Recycle old cell phones, see above as for batteries and ink cartridges.
  • Collect old toys and clothes that families don’t want and donate them to Goodwill or another charity organization (rather than throwing such items in the trash).
  • Sew cloth sandwich bags, to replace plastic sandwich bags in school lunches.
  • Compost school cafeteria food (if composting collection services are available in your town). Brainstorm with your child and think of some more ideas!

So start you very own piece of a plastic quilt today. It's easy, and it's a great way for your child to flex those creative muscles of hers and make some art. Most importantly, you and your child will be helping to reduce waste and landfill products, doing your part to save the planet in a big way. Happy Quilting!