DS Suukcapi Collage

A Project Comes to Life – Turning Trash to Treasure

A Project Come to Life

2022 Running Strong for American Indian Youth® Dreamstarter Cameron Troxel, 18, (Catawba), of Rock Hill, South Carolina, dream project is “For the River,” which aims to address plastic pollution in the Catawba River and accompanying waterways.

Over the past few months, the project has come to life! 

The Suukčapi (Beaverhouse) Project aims to help create a happier and healthier Catawba community by learning the ends and out of sustainability’s role in protecting the environment. The project is hosted at the Catawba Cultural Center.

As an indigenous community, tribal members were all excited to bring to life a project about sustainability. The project got its roots out of the Catawba peoples’ love to help protect their natural environment and the lifeline of their culture: the Catawba River. In the Catawba traditional language, the Catawba people are known as “the People of the River.” With the river supplying much life to the community, the Suukčapi Project knew that at the heart of the project should be the different ways they can help clean the river through different forms of sustainability.

The original plans to bring the project to life was centered around community river clean-ups and workshops. Within these workshops, the Suukčapi Project would show the community how to transform plastic waste into different.

The Project Moving Forward

As of October 2022, the project is moving forward with river clean-ups and undergoing multiple sustainability projects. The first one being on how to transform re-claimed plastic products. The Suukčapi Project’s first community showcase will be at our Cultural Festival this coming November. Even though much has changed in the life of the Suukčapi Project, we are ready to tackle the future and help our community grow!

Turning Trash into Treasure

Over the summer, the Suukčapi Project (The Beaver House) took on the initiative to help educate the Catawba Indian Nation community about the importance of sustainability and its impact on the environment. Throughout the course of the project, The Beaver House came up with multiple ways to be more sustainable.

Reinventing Plastic Bags into Tote Bags

Located downstream of the Catawba River, the Catawba Reservation sits in one of its many river bends. Due to the reservation’s geographical location, the land sitting alongside the river is subject to run-offs. The current pulls a lot of the sediment downstream carrying waste, containing far too many plastic bags, which eventually ends up on the riverbank. What could  be done with all these plastic bags?

After cleaning the riverbanks, it would be a shame to send the re-claimed plastic off to a waste management center. After all, the heart of the Suukčapi Project is sustainability so, the goal then became finding a way to give this one-time-one-use plastic a new life.

The Suukčapi Project knew that they wanted to create something that anybody can create… meaning no expensive machinery, just everyday items. They also knew that whatever they ended up making, needed to be cost-effective and used as little time as possible. That is when they came up with idea of turning plastic bags into reusable tote bags!

The Transformation

You are probably now questioning: “So, how exactly did the Suukčapi Project do it?” Good question. It took a lot of testing and research online. The beauty behind projects surrounding plastic bags is that there are a lot of resources online.

The main concept behind the transformation is applying heat to fuse the plastic bags together to make them more durable, turning them into a product that resembles clothing fabric. After creating the fabric, then it is time to sew the fabric together into a tote bag. Down below are items and steps people can follow along, to make their very own tote bag out of recycled plastic bags:

The Items You Need…

Here are the very few items needed to make a plastic tote bag, the Suukčapi Project way:

  • Plastic Bags
  • A Clothing Iron
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Sewing Thread
  • Sewing Machine

The Steps to Follow…

  1.  Cut the plastic bags into square. It is important to cut of the handles off as well. (Size of the square may vary depending on how large or small the tote is desired to be). About 8 plastic squares should be sufficient enough to make a regular-sized tote.
  • Place two of the plastic squares in between to sheets of aluminum foil. On a hard surface, iron the two plastic squares together under the foil until they are fused. It is important to turn the Iron to medium heat and to move/press the iron at a consistent rate.
  • Repeat step two until about 4 sheets of fused fabric are created.
  • Next, fuse two sheets of the already fused plastic fabric together applying the same steps from step two. This is a crucial part of the process because the plastic needs to be durable. To make it durable, the fused fabric should have 4 layers of plastic. Do this step twice. Now, there should be two sheets of durable plastic fabric available for use.
  • Now bring out the sewing machine and sew 3 of the 4 corners of the plastic together, leaving the fourth corner open.
  • Now that the durable fabric is formed to a container, flip it inside out to form the shape of the bag.
  • The last step is to take any leftover of the fused fabric and cut them into two straps to sew at the top the opening. Now, you have a tote bag!

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