No type of bag comes in as many different forms or has as many different uses as the plastic bag. From food to garbage to storage, the plastic bag does it all.
The most popular use of plastic bags is for the transportation of merchandise from one location to another. The use of plastic bags is standard practice in grocery stores and retail stores across the United States.
These bags are like the plastic version of the tote bag in that they have a handle on each side. The plastic usually does not have a shape because it is molded and fused by heat.
While some stores use plastic bags to transport items, many people use plastic bags to store goods and belongings.
Most people use plastic bags to store garbage. These bags are big enough to line a trash can, and are sometimes flexible in order to accommodate the amount of waste. More complex trash bags have a plastic drawstring around the edge of the bag in order to seal it.
Another popular form of storage bag is the zip bag. Zip bags are clear plastic bags that can be resealed. Many people use zip bags in order to store food items to keep them from perishing.
Zip bags come in many sizes, but the most popular sizes are tailored to food. Snack sizes, sandwich bags, and gallon storage bags are the standard sizes for popular zip bag companies like Ziploc and Glad. Recently, vacuum-sealed plastic storage bags have become popular in order to maximize storage space.
In order to understand the history of plastic bags, it is important to know the history of the material used to make them. Plastic is derived from the material celluloid, which can be molded to any form when heated. The first forms of plastic appeared in the late nineteenth century in billiard balls and film.
Plastic bags appeared in the 1960s, first being used to package foods and later being used to transport goods. Retail stores such as Sears and JC Penney became the first department stores to switch to plastic shopping bags. Grocery stores followed soon after.
In the short history of plastic bags, there has been much controversy. Plastic bags are non-biodegradable, meaning they do not break down after long periods of exposure in the environment. Animals, especially marine wildlife, are extremely susceptible to plastic bags because they can disrupt their habitat and are prone to asphyxiation.
Plastic bags are also controversial because petroleum is used to make them, which is also detrimental to the environment. The popularity of plastic bags also contributes to the rising price of gasoline because of the use of petroleum.
The reuse and recycling of plastic bags became popular in the 1990s, and continues to grow in popularity. Recycling plastic bags keeps them from clogging landfills and harming the environment.
Many cities and countries have restricted the distribution of plastic bags as a result of the harm they cause the environment. Cities in the United States that have banned plastic bags include San Francisco, Seattle, and Austin, Texas.
In 2011, Italy outlawed single-use non-biodegradable plastic bags. This legislation had a huge impact because, at the time, Italy used 25 percent of all plastic bags in Europe.
Because of the controversy surrounding plastic bags, reusable tote bags have become popular because they are ecofriendly.
However, plastic bags remain popular because they have many benefits. Although plastic bags are extremely lightweight, they are extremely strong. This combination of strength and weight makes plastic bags ideal for carrying heavy items.
In grocery stores, plastic bags are preferred over paper bags because of their strength. Paper bags can only carry so much before the bag tears or breaks. People can carry multiple plastic bags at one time, even with one handle, and not worry about the bag breaking.
Another benefit of plastic bags is that they are malleable, meaning they can easily accommodate the shapes of the items carried. With paper bags, items have to be maneuvered to fit exactly in the right place. However, with plastic bags, items can be placed in any formation and still fit.
Plastic bags can also be recycled, thereby not harming the environment and reducing the cost to produce them. Also, plastic bags can be reused around the home to store different items.
Although plastic bags have been surrounded by controversy since its inception, it remains a tremendously popular item, and almost a necessity in transporting smaller merchandise.