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Making lifesaving blankets out of crisp packets

The Crisp Packet Project was launched by Pen Huston in November 2019 to address the problem of flimsy sleeping bags for homeless people. A blanket made from crisp packets can protect sleeping bags for weeks in cold and wet weather, reflecting the heat, keeping individuals dry, and helping to reduce the amount of single-use plastic going to landfill. Since launching, the Crisp Packet Project has grown into a nationwide network of volunteers making sleeping bags and other survival items for homeless people in their local communities. One of those volunteers is LaiHa Diamond, Business Support Manager for King’s Community Business Services.

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LaiHa saw posts about the Crisp Packet Project (CPP) on Facebook and knew she had to get involved. ‘During the 2020 pandemic I wanted to get stuck in with a community or charity project. CPP was inspiring because they were reducing single use plastics going to landfill and turning this waste into something valuable for the homeless. I felt I was able to give something small back to the community whist being at home.’

LaiHa quickly joined a local CPP group and began making survival blankets for distribution in her local community. She reached out to friends, family and work colleagues to help her collect the crisp packets and also ate a few packets of crisps herself. ‘The role involved a lot of crisp eating, washing and drying out the packets ready to construct into blankets. I had few trial and errors with the ironing but once I got the hang of it, I was in full swing making these survival blankets.’

Crisp packets are an ideal material for the survival blankets because they are waterproof and the silver foil lining reflects heat, keeping the body warmer for longer. Crisp packets are also among the least recycled types of packaging material. According to waste charity WRAP, just four per cent of flexible packaging is currently recycled in the UK despite making up a quarter of all consumer plastic packaging.

My first survival sheet took me approximately 3 hours. I had to iron 44 crisp packets and then fuse the clear plastic to the packets. I was amazed how a few waste items can be transformed into something so incredible to keep someone warm over the winter months.– LaiHa Business Support Manager, King’s Community Business Service

To inspire other members of the King’s Community to make these lifesaving crisp packet blankets, LaiHa ran a virtual workshop for students, staff and alumni as part of King’s Global Day of Service in March. Commenting on the experience, LaiHa said, ‘it was great to deliver a virtual workshop to tell people about the Crisp Packet Project and show them how to make these survival blankets.’ She also produced a short guide on how to create the survival blankets so that people could make them in their own time. LaiHa plans to run future virtual workshops and hopes to deliver in-person sessions once lockdown restrictions ease.

LaiHa used her Service Time, the allowance King’s staff are given for voluntary activities, to create the crisp packet blankets and run the virtual workshop for King’s Global Day of Service. She commented that ‘prior to Service Time being launched at King’s I hadn’t done much charity work. With King’s offering this opportunity it’s given me the chance to give back to the community.’ LaiHa has also previously organised Service Time activities for her team in King’s Venues and is planning volunteering opportunities for colleagues in Estates and Facilities.

Service and volunteering for me is all about paying it forward by bringing groups of people together to make the community a better place. I would encourage people to find a cause or charity they are passionate about and just go for it. Every charity and community project I’ve been involved in has brought me happiness and given me a sense of purpose.– LaiHa Diamond, Business Support Manager, King’s Community Business Service

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