Packets for people: creating survival items from recycled crisp packets

Gillian shares what inspired her to create survival blankets and sleeping bags for rough sleepers in the UK and refugees abroad. 


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© Sandy McCook/DC Thomson.

When the UK went into the first COVID lockdown back in March 2020, 52-year-old Gillian from Inverness wanted to find a way to keep herself busy. The last of her six grown-up children had just flown the nest and she was feeling the side effects of empty nest syndrome. Stumbling across a video on YouTube of someone creating blankets and waterproof items from recycled crisp packets, Gillian knew she had found an idea she could get behind. 

‘I thought this was a fantastic idea, not only because it helps vulnerable people, but it also helps the environment too.’ 

Gillian began collecting crisp packets, and after she posted the request for empty bags on Facebook she was inundated with boxes of recycled crisp packets from eager Invernessian’s keen to help.

A blanket Gillian made from recycled packets of crisps. ©Sandy McCook/DC Thomson.

Gillian began by washing and hanging thousands of crisp packets out to dry before fusing them together with her iron to create survival blankets, sleeping bags and sack bags. 

What initially started as a solo mission eventually blossomed into a network of members of the public, schools and churches all keen to pitch in for the greater good. 

Following in the footsteps of her mother, Gillian has always been involved in charitable work and has always tried to support where possible. The items Gillian makes are split between both homeless charities in the UK and refugee charities abroad. Her survival blankets will soon be covering someone sleeping out on the streets, or even a refugee in Ukraine this winter. 

Gillian ironing some empty crisp packets together. She spends up to 5 hours per day creating her survival blankets and other waterproof items. © Sandy McCook/DC Thomson.

‘People should support both people here and abroad because we are all humans and should help each other when we can.’ 

‘I write wee messages of comfort and hope on them to try and make people feel loved and cared for.’ 

‘It’s important to be kind and we should help everyone everywhere.’ 


This winter forcibly displaced people need your help now more than ever. Donate today and support forcibly displaced people on the frontlines. 

This is an abridged version of another web story. The original can be found here. 

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