Recently, North Carolina native Tori Carle received the National Leadership Award for her work in recycling. This work, which popularized the material named “plarn,” a fabric made out of plastic, has brought her nation-wide attention after knitting it into items like bedding for the homeless. Thankfully, she had the time to give an interview to the Carolinian.
Q: Where did you get the inspiration for this project?
A: During grad school. YouTube taught me to crochet scarves, hats, and essentially all my family’s Christmas presents that year, and I have been a crocheter ever since. I found out about plarn on Pinterest right after I started my job as the Recycling Educator with the City of Greensboro in December 2015. I also learned a lot about recycling that I did not know before. From this new knowledge about plastic bag non-recyclability and the discovery of plarn, a dream was born. I wanted to teach a creative reuse workshop about how to make a craft with plarn so that I could educate residents about where they can recycle plastic bags: at retail drop off locations (grocery stores mostly).
Q: How does it feel to receive the interest that your project has?
A: I am very honored and humbled that anyone would be interested in replicating this project. Even though the idea started with smaller church congregations, I think I am the only person in a position like mine to try making a project like this larger scale. Several colleagues in other communities have reached out for advice and Operation Bed Roll in Columbia, SC is under way (plus other communities). This was my hope all along: to spread the plarn love to many unsheltered residents.
She has now started to work with other recycling enthusiasts.
“I have been in touch with other communities and organizations to start Operation Bed Roll, but I am required to keep my attention focused on Greensboro.”
Q: What is Operation Bed Roll?
A: Operation Bed Roll is a nearly 100% free project for anyone that wants to participate (but you need to purchase a Q-sized crochet hook). If another community was thinking about starting OBR, their biggest commitments would be organizing/teaching workshops, providing drop sites for completed bedrolls, collecting the bed rolls and redistributing them to shelters and police officers. All of that is logistical except teaching the workshops, so if someone wanted to start in another community, they could make it an all-volunteer project.
Q: How can somebody who can’t knit contribute to your cause?
A: Greensboro residents can contribute by spreading the word about plarn and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Anyone can help make plarn and bed rolls! If anyone wants to try and get me on air with Ellen or Kathy Lee and Hoda, I wouldn’t be opposed to teaching them how to make plarn!
Q: Any final thoughts to leave the readers with?
A: The world of recycling is changing all the time. There are some big challenges with contamination in recycling and trying to get more residents to recycle. That in itself is a big challenge that I look forward to tackling.