Community Work staff with their chip packet blanket.In a new Canterbury Community Corrections initiative, people on community work sentences are turning chip wrappers into warm blankets.

A requirement of a community work sentence is for people ‘to give back to the community against which they have offended’, resulting in a large number of beautification, tidying, planting and maintenance projects being undertaken for community groups, Councils, DoC and others across the region.

A challenge for Community Work teams is finding purposeful projects, and space, for people on community work sentences who are unable to participate in outdoor projects or to offer on bad weather days.

This challenge has led Christchurch community work supervisors to investigate new ideas, including the re-purposing of a common rubbish item – the chip packet - into foil blankets!

“This project ticks lots of boxes,” says Service Manager Emma Whiu. “By using chip packets for foil blankets we are making a difference to the environment and giving back to those people in our community who need protection. Recent weather impacting the country has reinforced the need to support our community’s most vulnerable. So, these blankets are more in need than ever!.

The Crisp Packet Project was launched by Pen Huston in November 2019 while working for UK charity, Surviving the Streets UK. She was frustrated that they were always running out of sleeping and bivvy bags for people sleeping in the streets and felt those sleeping bags they had were flimsy and inadequate 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.

The Chip Packet Project New Zealand is working with Housing First, a community group working with Christchurch homeless. The colourful blankets will be gifted to the homeless or elderly in need of warmth and protection, and be a useful item for incidents where people are displaced from their homes or, as we have seen recently, caught out in national emergencies.

Blankets will be delivered to local social services and, once delivered to someone, the person who made the blanket will get a photo to show them where their blanket has gone.

“Chip packets for the project are dropped off at collection points around Christchurch and then the programme manager delivers them to us,” explains Emma. “Going forward we have our own little cardboard box for staff to donate their chip packets. The plastic that is sealed on the chip packets is donated by Mitre 10 Mega from plastic wraps around pallets.

The Christchurch CWS team recently came together to try out the process and say apart from the satisfaction of their creation, it was a fun team-building exercise.

Chip Packet Project NZ, the group driving this initiative, say it takes 44 chip packets and four hours to make a blanket, and they will need 30,000 blankets a year to cope with demand.

To see how these are made, visit RNZ.