A group of East High School students is helping Anchorage’s homeless, using plastic shopping bags. The “Interact Club” says the community has donated thousands of bags in the last few weeks. Now they’re working together to put them to good use.

“We’ve been stashing them here,” said teacher Kevin Ratliff, pointing to bags of bags piled high in his classroom, “We’re still getting bags and bags and bags every day.”

During the Wednesday lunch hour, Interact students formed an assembly line and got to work on “Project Plastic Bag.”

“We take recycled plastic bags and we crochet them into sleeping mats for the homeless, and possible emergency shelter use,” said Interact president Celia Sheppard.

The bags have to be flattened, cut into strips, then looped together, eventually making a ball of “plarn,” or plastic yarn, to be turned into a mat.

“It’s a lot of work to get these bags processed into the mats that we want to make,” Ratliff said.

He said the community’s donated enough bags to get the project going, now they just need more helping hands.

“Isn’t your biggest happiness giving back? And even if we all just did one mat, it would make a huge difference,” said Linda Sheppard, a parent volunteer.

Celia said she’s also excited that every bag they repurpose is plastic that won’t turn into litter.

“So what we’re doing is taking these out of the environment, and putting them towards a beneficial cause,” she said.

Being kind to the planet, and to each other — she said that’s what “Project Plastic Bag” is all about.

If you’re interested in volunteering, contact East High School.