Homelessness volunteer makes sleeping bag covers out of crisp packets

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A VOLUNTEER with the homeless is making waterproof sleeping bag covers using an iron and hundreds of empty crisp packets.

Pen Huston takes about four hours and 150 empty packets to create the covers, which also help with insulation and as storage for personal items during the day.

Pen, 45, washes and dries the packets before ironing them into five-by-five squares which, once put together, create the “bivvy bag”.

The business owner from Hastings, East Sussex, is also taking harmful plastic waste out the environment by recycling it.

Pen, who owns a “creative well-being space” called The Art Shack in Hastings, is urging others to donate their time – and empty crisp packets – to making the covers.

Users slip the bivvy bag over their sleeping bag to keep it dry

Pen came up with the idea after volunteering with homelessness charity, Surviving the Streets, and launched the project seven weeks ago.

She said: “When I volunteered with Surviving the Streets there were never enough bags but it costs about £5 or £6 per bivvy bag and we just couldn’t afford to buy everyone one.

“I started off making weave mats for the homeless out of crisp packets and then I was lying awake one night thinking about it.

“I’ve seen people doing lots of things with crisp packets, but not bivvy bags.”

She added: “I started to wonder, ‘Well could I make like a giant crisp packet?’ because they’re waterproof and well insulated.

“I’m learning as I go, but I have got the bivvy bags sussed.”

Pen is currently appealing for crisp packets through her Facebook page The Crisp Packet Project.

Pen irons together the crisp packets 5×5

However, she hopes to get people in their own communities manufacturing bivvy bags.

She added: “In the last three weeks I’ve been inundated with crisp packets and I’ve had people asking me to come and do workshops.

“It would be great if people could send them in washed and ironed five by five in a row.

“We’ve got seven on the streets currently and the homeless love them.

“I’ve had one bloke who was sleeping in two sleeping bags, but now he’s just using one because they’re so warm.

“He uses it for storage in the day because it keeps stuff dry as well.

“It’s absolutely about reducing waste too. The Art Shack is about making something out of nothing, it just shows what you can do.

“We were using bags from supermarkets, but Hastings Sofa Company have been brilliant so we use plastic from there that would have gone to landfill.

The finished product

“I just want people to make as many as they can and to get people to do it in their own communities.”

The bags are distributed by Surviving the Streets, a homelessness charity based in East Sussex.

The charity’s founder 39-year-old James Robinson has praised Pen’s “amazing” work.

Speaking today, he said: “The feedback from it has been amazing.

“We’re always running out of sleeping bags and blankets, but now instead of giving out three sleeping bags and having to wash and dry them we just give out one.

“People are saying it’s something they would use and not just throw away.

“There’s one particular man in his eighties and he basically said: ‘Can I inquire about these bivvy bags?’

“I hadn’t given him one yet because he’s quite set in his ways, but the minute I introduced him to it he said it made such a difference.

“It’s just amazing, it’s saving the charity money and it’s recycling. I think it’s life changing really.”

 
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