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Professor Teaches Kenyans to Make Mosquito Netting from Plastic Bags

Doane College faculty member Brad Elder is spending three weeks in Kenya, training residents to make mosquito netting out of recycled plastic bags.

It's one step in a project that he and other Doane professors believe could have international impact. The project is drawing media attention, including a Jan. 4 feature article in the Lincoln Journal Star at http://journalstar.com/articles/2009/01/04/news/local/doc496019c915e0e020323088.txt.

It has been one year since Elder, an assistant professor of biology, Doane students, and faculty members Linda Kalbach and Karla Cooper began teaching ways to turn single-use plastic shopping bags into reusable totes.

After months of experimenting, Elder also came up with a way to turn the bags into life-saving mosquito nets that could protect against malaria in developing countries.

Elder left Dec. 27 for the trip to Kenya, where the bags are officially banned but still found everywhere - including, he said, outside, where they pollute the ground for hundreds of years or more.

According to Elder the bags are a monumental problem that could become a cheap, simple solution that saves untold numbers of lives. Using the bags as mosquito netting is one example.

Elder's technique uses a small nail, dubbed the African needle, which is filed into an inverted "V" and can punch holes through plastic using a treadle sewing machine.

Elder is staying in the hometown of Isaac Kinyanjui, a wildlife guide who has lectured on Doane's Crete campus and assisted Doane groups studying in Africa.

To read more on the plastic bag reuse project, go to: www.doane.edu/mosquito-netting.