By Mike Nesbitt
IRISHTOWN - Plastic shopping bags are an unremarkable part of Canadian retailing, but they have a very marked impact on the environment. However one young Islander is doing her small part to reduce that impact by reusing the bags for a new purpose.
Sabrina MacKay discovered that shopping bags can be transformed, using a simple crochet technique, into purse-like carrying bags that extend the use of the original plastic far beyond the usual, one-use lifespan.
Simple recycling of plastic bags costs more than the effort is worth, according to B.C.-based Greener Footprints. The environmental-awareness organization promotes re-usable bags as a major solution to the problem of waste plastic bags, noting that they need be used only five times to have a lower environmental impact.
MacKay plans to extend the value of her recycling effort by selling her purses to raise money for cancer research.
"It's good for the environment and making money for Relay for Life," MacKay enthused.
The Grade 12 student has been involved with the Relay for Life efforts at Kensington Intermediate Senior High school since she arrived at the school in the seventh grade. She is now captain of a Relay team.
MacKay sells her large handmade bags for $20 and small ones for $10 and will use her earnings to make a contribution to the 2013 cancer charity event.
"If you work steady, from start to finish, it would probably take a full day to do. Usually, if I really push to do one, it takes about a week," MacKay admits.
"My grandmother came over one day and showed me how to do it. She said someone showed her how, and it pretty much carried on like that," she explained.
MacKay decided that the bags would be a good fundraising project for the 2013 event, which happens in May. Once she decided on that, her mother, Melanie, offered to help with production and made up product tags that identify the 100% recycle feature and the Relay for Life contribution.
It takes an estimated 50 bags for each large purse. They get their raw materials by the bagful, dropped off by friends and acquaintances at their home. Demand for specific colour is usually filled after a simple request via social media, and they are sometimes offered stock when they visit others.
Most are created to meet specific requests, but they were offered for sale at the local Christmas craft fair. They sold about 15, but have no idea how many will eventually be made as MacKay also has a part-time job, peer helping duties, tutors, volunteers at the hospital and works with a career experience web channel, n3xt.ca.
MacKay's grandmother helps by displaying purses in her Charlottetown office. She reports that her customers indicate they use them like re-usable shopping bags.
"Word-of-mouth is already getting us more orders than we can make, so that is fine enough for now," MacKay assesses.
Anyone wanting to purchase one of the purses, or assist with production, can contact the MacKays at 836-4823.