Volunteers on the Greek Island of Lesbos upcycle lifejackets into mattresses

Volunteers on the Greek Island of Lesbos are taking the neon-orange lifejackets left by migrants and turning them into temporary mattresses.

In an attempt to clean up the Lesbos coast and keep migrants warm, volunteers in Lesbos are upcycling used-lifejackets into comfortable, insulated, and fire-retardant mattresses. Volunteers refashion the vests into insulated mattresses by stringing them together in an interlocking design.

Speaking to the UNHRC about the inspiration behind the design, Danish volunteer Mads Damgaard Peterson said: “We were seeing this enormous problem on the island with all the mess, at the same time as seeing all the refugees sleeping on the ground.”

Peterson designed the mattress with the help of fellow Danish volunteer Anezka Sokol.

The migrants journey across the Aegean Sea from Turkey and according to Boris Cheshirkov, the United Nations Refugee Agency spokesman on Lesbos, over 14 000 people have arrived at the island by boat in 2016 alone.

“When we realised how many life jackets there were and how easy it was to access them, it seemed like a cool project to start on," Sokol said. "This was a waste of resources that would have gone to a landfill."

The re-use of such mattresses was also a hygiene concern. The team is now prototyping an interlocking design that can be laid underneath the groundsheet of tents, creating a comfy, insulated, fire retardant sleeping surface that can also be wiped clean.

The volunteers prototyped the mattress and produced 20 that they then handed out to people at the refugee registration centre. According to the UNHCR, approximately 3 300 refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers arrive at the island of Lesbos on a daily basis. Many of them sleep in tents on the cold, hard ground.