Helping the homeless with empty crisp packets

Students and staff at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) are working on an innovative project to help the homeless, turning crisp packets into bivy bags to keep people warm and dry on the streets during the winter.

Natasha John, a technician at UWTSD’s Swansea College of Art, came up with the idea after discovering The Crisp Packet Project on Facebook. Founded by Hastings-based artist Pen Huston, the project began life last year and teaches people to make the bags via online workshops. The bags are designed to be placed over a sleeping bag to keep it dry and increase warmth.

“I thought it would be a great thing for the students to do this alongside their other projects,” she says. “It’s a way of using up things that would otherwise go to landfill and benefiting someone else at the same time.”

Natasha has gathered a group of students to help with the project and they aim to give the bivy bags to local homeless charities over the Christmas period. It takes 150 crisp packets to make one bivy bag, so Natasha is appealing to the public to provide as many as they can.

“This project is about giving back to the community, being more aware of vulnerable people and more aware of recycling,” she says. “These packets are usually seen as rubbish but can be used to make a valuable survival blanket. It’s unfortunate that people are sleeping on the streets and need these blankets, but it feels good to be able to help.”

Caroline Thraves, Academic Director, Art & Media at UWTSD is impressed by the initiative: “I am extremely proud of the staff and students who are working on this project,” she says. “This demonstrates what a positive impact art and design can have on the city and its people. Our students and staff are utilising their creative talents to support some of the most vulnerable people whilst also having a positive impact upon the environment which is an issue that is very important to them. Such a brilliant project, such brilliant students and staff.”

Pen Huston, founder of The Crisp Packet Project, said that the Swansea initiative was “just beautiful.”

“I just love the fact students are getting involved,” she said. “It’s such a productive project: great for one use plastics, great for our less fortunate communities to help and save lives this winter. This project brings people together and is really helping, at this time of the pandemic, with mental well-being. It’s a wonderful project helping people to feel positive. You always get a sense of joy when you help someone. This project does this in a nutshell, giving new life to one use plastics and helping so many people along the way. Just magic.”

Anyone who would like to donate crisp packets is asked to contact Natasha at: natasha.john@uwtsd.ac.uk.

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