Zahra Handworks Foundation (Zahra) facilitates educational and enrichment opportunities focused on the value and importance of creating with one's own hands, especially when made from re-purposed and reclaimed materials, and the positive ecological effects this can have on the environment, culture, and family.

Shannon's Bottle Bricks filled with dry,

non-compostable trash

A student crocheting with plarn in Egypt.

In the White Desert, an Egyptian friend learns how long one small plastic bag can become.


Working specifically with thin-film plastic bags and plastic water bottles, Zahra partners with local Egyptian NGOs, schools, businesses, tour companies, and/or governmental agencies to sponsor workshops in various locations around Egypt. Participants are shown how to create items of worth, practicality, and beauty such as bags, rugs, and baskets from an abundant and free raw material. This encourages economic and environmental development as they physically transform the trash into useful objects without the need for infrastructure and very minimal investment. Opportunities such as this allow the individual to take ownership of their own heritage and land, as well as potential for economic development and autonomy.

A gift of a crochet hook and new scissors is given to each participant, providing the only tools needed to begin creating with "plarn," a yarn make out of the thin-film plastic bags. After learning how to cut the bag into plarn, they are taught basic crochet and shown examples of products made from plarn.

We also introduce them to bottle bricks made from packing dry, non-compostable trash, sand, or dirt into a plastic water bottle. All the scrap from the plarn process is placed in bottles.

Additionally, as some of the women and youth embrace working with the plarn, Zahra will offer support on how to sell the items they create, and connect them with retail outlets and tour companies who may bring potential sales opportunities. For information on the next set of activities, please go to the projects page.


Across the globe, the manufacture and discard of plastic-filled-waste grows faster that the planet's ability to absorb it. Plastic, by its very nature, does not compost. Many countries do not have a properly functioning infrastructure to collect garbage let along sort it for recycling. By encouraging the reclamation for certain discarded items as a raw material for art and crafts, there is a unique opportunity to re-instill the quickly vanishing values of historical hand craftsmanship. This also encourages a greater consciousness around how people think about garbage, how they consume, and how consumption affects the planet on a larger scale.

This is not a new agricultural crop, but plastic bags... currently a plentiful ray material.

The Zabeleen people recycle up to 80% of what the collect in Cairo. The task seems daunting...

Like tumbleweeds, the plastic bags roll across the desert and collect...


© 2016 Zahra Handworks Foundation

A 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization


Zahra is an Arabic word meaning bright, shining, pure, brilliant, flower, blossom, and/or beauty.