Many of the items we consider to be real period features today were just everyday things which people used without a thought but which encapsulated something of their life and times. With recent legislation targeting the use of the plastic carrier bag, the thin coloured bags we take for granted as we pop into a local shop may become a thing of the past – which future generations will collect as period pieces. Should we be making a collection now? China banned them completely in 2008!
The first patents for plastic shopping bags date to the 1950s but the thin all in one piece bags we know today were the invention of a Swedish engineer, Sten Gustaf Thulin, in the early 1960s. His design for a simple strong bag made from die-cutting a flat tube of plastic was produced by a packaging company called Celloplast and was patented worldwide by them in 1965. Of course the huge potential of this product attracted competition from other companies and the patents were successfully overturned in 1977 – opening the floodgates for their cheap mass production. By the 1980s we expected them to be freely available every time we shopped. We all know the resulting ecological damage this created which is now so serious that governments have stepped I to try and wean us off them. It seems reasonable to suppose they will be a thing of the past in the next ten years. Keep a few to show your grandchildren.