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Greeley man makes a splash with trash

MIKE PETERS
The Tribune
This undated picture shows Russ Marvin of Greeley Colo. who crochets hats, backpacks, and bags from recycled plastic grocery bags and caution tape. He sells them at flea markets and also gives some to the homeless. (AP Photo/The Greeley Tribune, Leigh Rockwood)
AP | The Greeley Tribune

GREELEY, Colo. (AP) – You’ve got them laying around the house.

There’s some in the garage, a few under the sink, probably some in the basement and in the car trunk.

They’re everywhere because you don’t quite know how to get rid of them, and mostly, they’re just worthless.

Then along comes Plastic Bag Man.

Russell Marvin got that comic-book name from friends and fellow church members who have seen his work.

“Well, I take the plastic grocery bags,” Marvin explains, “and cut them into strips, and I put the strips in a jug, and then I crochet.”

Russell’s wife, Carolyn, taught him to crochet. The plastic bags kind of worked their way into his hobby.

In a masterful blend of fashion creation and recycling, Marvin has transformed thousands of plastic grocery bags into hats, bags, backpacks, diaper bags and purses, all made from plastic grocery bags that you usually throw away.

Most of the hats and bags are white with black designs because most bags are white with black letters.

A couple of bags are yellow, made from yellow construction tape Marvin bought at the store.

“There usually isn’t a real plan when I start,” Russell says. “I just start crocheting and see where it takes me.”

Marvin, 55, can’t work because of severe osteoporosis and stress fractures in some bones. But he can sit in the overstuffed chair in the living room and crochet.

He was born in Cheyenne, but because his father was a military tech specialist, the family moved all over the world.

After high school, Marvin joined the U.S. Army. He got out in 1973, moved to Greeley and for 30 years worked as a certified nursing assistant for nursing homes.

The osteoporosis forced his retirement three years ago, when he discovered crocheting and plastic bags. He also paints and draws.

“In three years, I’ve probably made about 500 hats and purses and things,” Marvin said. “It takes about three days for a hat, and then I sell it for $10 to $30, depending how fancy it is.”

The business hasn’t been great because the market hasn’t been really discovered. Carolyn sells the plastic hats and other items at the farmers market in Greeley during the summer, and they try to sell them online.

Friends and church members at the First Presbyterian Church across from the Marvin house supply him with plastic bags and sometimes buy his creations.

“A lot of them I just give away,” he said. “If I see somebody who needs a hat, I’ll just let them have it.”

A short time ago, when some groups proposed banning plastic bags in supermarkets, it worried Marvin.

“They were going to take away my working material,” he said with a smile. “It would have put me out of business.”

But he’s still in business today, in the living room chair, cutting and crocheting the magic hats and bags. The bags you thought were worthless.


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