Mexico bag recycling sorting
Members of the Christian Community Center in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, sorting plastic bags
It is amazing how art can empower a community. Anda Dillon, a Phoenix-based artist that works with dichroic glass and kiln-fired materials, was housesitting in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, a few years ago. While there, she and her husband began to volunteer at the Christian Community Center, located in the city’s San Rafael neighborhood. As Dillon worked on art projects with the women and children, a sustainable and socially synergistic micro-enterprise system was born. Dillon began by conducting arts and crafts activities with kids at the center. Mothers would accompany the kids, so Dillon brought things for them to make as well. The women made beautiful items, with crochet and other methods, and they had the brilliant idea of selling these items to make money from their efforts. Karen Higgins, the Director at Christian Community Center, was pleased with the budding entrepreneurs, but said that there was no way the center itself could buy all the goods the women produced. So, the group found a way for the women to start selling their wares at the local Mermaid Market every other week. Dillon recalls that at first it was not easy to make a lot of items because “materials were expensive and hard to find.” But, this challenge turned out to be a great opportunity. Back in Phoenix, Dillon was introduced to Mary Anderson, who makes mats for the homeless using plastic bags. This gave Dillon her light bulb moment: Recycled plastic bags would make great raw materials for the items the women in Puerto Peñasco were making.
recycled plastic bag art show
A sample of recycled plastic bag goods made in Puerto Peñasco
It turns out that another American who was visiting Puerto Peñasco, LouAnne Clark, had been collecting plastic bags through her work at General Dynamics. She had been asking employees to bring in plastic bags and had accumulated quite a few. Clark got wind of what Dillon and the group at the center were up to, and she donated the plastic bags to the cause. Talk about serendipity! The women were so enterprising and creative with the plastic bags they received, making them into cool bags, purses, placemats, hats, shoes and other useful goods. Now, plastic bags that would otherwise end up in a landfill are being repurposed into items the Puerto Peñasco community can use, helping contribute to a creative micro-economy that empowers local women. This little enterprise at the Christian Community Center is going strong and has a life of its own now. Donations of plastic bags keep coming in, and in the winter, the center get donations of yarn, with which the crafters make beautiful scarves, headbands, slippers and other useful items to sell. Just recently, a few sewing machines were donated to the center, opening up a new world of possibilities of what the women can make and sell. The future of plastic bag recycling in this small beachside city looks bright!