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New modern convenience: the plastic bag

The Story

Still thriving after 55,000 miles of travel (88,500 kilometres), goldfish Betsy and Duke offer ample proof that plastic bags keep things fresh. That's what makes this new polyethylene packaging just the thing for storing meat, transporting lemonade, keeping clothes moth-free and silver tarnish-proof. The bags, originally made for the meat packing industry but now available to consumers, come in three handy sizes. As we hear in this 1962 clip from CBC Radio, the modern housewife just won't want to do without plastic bags.

Medium: Radio
Program: Assignment
Broadcast Date: Aug. 7, 1962
Guest: Nadine Adams
Interviewer: Maria Barrett
Duration: 6:36
Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/pederk

Did You know?

• Clear plastic bags for use in the kitchen, like the ones discussed in this 1962 clip, are made of low density polyethylene. Contrary to what Nadine Adams reports, polyethylene was invented in England in 1933 by Reginald Gibson and Eric Fawcett. Most commonly made from natural gas or crude oil, polyethylene did not come into widespread use until in the 1950s, after manufacturers evolved both the high and low density forms. It is the same material used to make plastic shopping bags, shrink wrap and food storage containers.


• Despite the apparent well-being of the goldfish Betsy and Duke discussed in this clip, fish enthusiasts recommend keeping goldfish in a bag for not longer than an hour or so, and placing the bag inside an opaque or paper bag to minimize the stress from light on fish in transit. Goldfish generally require more than 35 litres of water each to thrive. Polyethylene is not permeable to air; indeed both the low and high density forms are used to ensure air-tight seals, as with vapour barriers used in home construction.


• Canadians Harry Wasylyk and Larry Hansen invented the green plastic garbage bag in 1950. As with the bags discussed in this clip, they were first produced by Union Carbide for commercial purposes. Green garbage bags hit the big time in the 1960s when they entered the consumer market as Glad garbage bags.


• In 1966, the Globe and Mail reported that the city of Toronto made the use of plastic garbage bags standard. In an effort to replace metal garbage cans, the city planned to distribute two free bags per week to homeowners.


• In recent years plastic bags of all kinds have come under attack for their impact on the environment. Several jurisdictions, including China in 2008, placed severe restrictions on the manufacture and use of the bags. The first municipality in Canada to prohibit plastic shopping bags was Leaf Rapids, Man. In 2009, the city of Toronto ended the practice of giving away plastic bags for free with a municipal bylaw that requires store owners to charge at least five cents for every plastic bag.




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