Plastic bags have been in use since the 1950s. Plastic was in use before then, but not extensively. Instead, people used paper for all of their packaging needs. This all changed during World War II, when manufacturers from the United States and across Europe raced to come up with plastic compositions that would be useful to the war effort. After WWII, the economy boomed and plastic manufacturers looked for ways to market their plastic products back home. Thus, they came up with plastic packaging like bags. Early plastic bags did not usually feature handles because adding handles required an expensive, separate process that many manufacturers avoided.
The 1950s and 1960s saw several landmarks for plastic bags. In 1957, for example, manufacturers sold the first sandwich baggies on a roll. Then, in 1958, dry cleaners began using plastic dry cleaning bags instead of brown paper dry cleaning bags. In the early years of the ‘60s, Swedish engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin came up with a design for the first modern plastic shopping bag. His bags were lightweight, flexible and strong. He even found a more efficient and less time-consuming way to integrate handles. The company for which he worked, Celloplast, patented his one-piece shopping bags in 1965. The design became so popular that in 1977, the US government threw out the patent so th other companies could compete in the market.
Plastic bags gained so much traction that, by 1966, 25% to 30% of bread was already being packaged in plastic. That same year, grocery chains like Kroger began using plastic bags on rolls in their stores. In 1969, the New York City Sanitation Department decided to experiment with replacing curbside metal trash can pick up with plastic bag curbside pickup. They found collecting trash and refuse stored in plastic bags was quieter, safer, and more sanitary. This helped the rise of plastic drum liners.
In 1973, manufacturers finally found an efficient and affordable way to produce plastic grocery bags on a commercial scale. Within a few years, many stores had either replaced paper bags entirely or begun offering plastic grocery bags as an alternative. By the mid-1970s, big retail stores like J.C. Penney and Sears had begun storing and shipping their merchandise in sealable plastic bags.
Beginning in 1990, cities began enacting the first blue bag curbside recycling programs. This signaled a shift to the age of consumer recycling. Within two years, almost half of the United States’ grocery stores offered plastic bag recycling services. Some regions and states went so far as to ban certain plastic bag products By banning them, officials hoped to protect the environment from un-recycled plastic litter.
Today, plastic bags are more versatile and varied than ever. It is easy for manufacturers to create custom bags of all shapes and sizes. The challenge of plastic bag manufacturers and plastic bag consumers is to better support the environment by reusing and recycling. In the U.S. alone, 80% of grocery bags are plastic, but the ratio of consumer plastic that is recycled are less than 0.5%.
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Post time: Apr-25-2019