HHS students turn milk bags into mattresses



In communities around the world, people live without many of the things most of us consider basic necessities: clean water, warmth, and a comfortable place to sleep.

Huntsville High School’s learning skills classes are helping to provide the latter by creating mattresses from an unlikely source—milk bags. The mattresses will be sent to communities in El Salvador.

Teresa Patterson, learning skills teacher and project coordinator at HHS, got the idea from her mother who makes milk bag mattresses at her church to send to Central America.

In order to create a mattress the milk bags, which have been donated to the school, are cut in half and then the bags are woven together on a loom. Each mattress requires around 400 milk bags, and is large enough to sleep an adult and child.

“Many of my students are hands-on learners so this project has been really great for them,” said Patterson.

Once students have completed their class work for the day, they are able to work on the project in the last few minutes of class.

“It’s really important for students to understand we live in such a privileged place,” said Patterson. “In class we learn about poverty and developing countries in books but having a tangible project like this really brings it home. Once a mat is completed the students know that it’s going to a community that experiences poverty every day.”

In addition to filling a need in a developing country, diverting the milk bags from landfills and recycling facilities results in less waste.

After the classes have completed several mattresses they will be sent to Dr. Andrew Simone in Mississauga who distributes them in El Salvador. Dr. Simone is the founder of Canadian Food for Children, a GTA-based charity that brings food and other supplies to developing communities in Central America.

The HHS project began just a few weeks ago, but the classes plan to make the mattresses a long-term project.

If you would like to donate milk bags to the project, contact Teresa Patterson at [email protected]

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  1. You are right Linda Brodie. Sleeping on the plastic mattresses will protect people from the moisture and insects under them and will last a long time. My concern is the thinking they are removing something from the waste stream, because we know our waste plastic is everywhere. It’s not gone, but in this case, reused effectively.

  2. Lesley Hastie on

    I know many people here would be happy to find such a worthy cause for their clean milk bags. Please Teresa could you send an alternative email address, as the one in the article doesn’t seem to work.

    • Elizabeth Rice - Doppler Publisher on

      Hi Lesley,

      The email addressed worked for me. You may have to copy and paste it into your email.
      Thanks for reading Doppler.

  3. It’s really wonderful that the students are learning about life in Third World countries, and how people do without so many basic items in their homes. I wonder if you’ve considered what happens next to the plastic that was made into mattresses? I’m assuming they would have a long life span as a mattress since plastic doesn’t disintegrate. In Muskoka, we have quite a comprehensive program where even plastic film such as that in milk bags is recycled. Rarely do 3rd world countries, and even in many 1st world countries (e.g. Lots of states in the USA) have recycling programs. And my observation of waste gathered in places like Kenya, is that it’s actually just burned in small or large piles, wherever it accumulates, either on the side of the road or in local dumps. Taking the plastic out of our waste stream is nice, but it still isn’t really gone, just into someone else’s waste stream, eventually.

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