Almost 100 years ago, in 1933, a material called polyethylene was invented based on the work of Eric Fawcett and Reginald Gibson. This was first polyethylene material made and it paved the path for scientists and inventors of future generations to learn from and build upon.
Why is the invention of polyethylene significant? I am sure there are many reasons, but the one that seems to be the most relevant for the everyday consumer its role in a product we now refer to as garbage bags. The first green garbage bag was invented in 1950 by Canadian inventors Harry Wasylyk and Larry Hansen. Their invention relied on a low-density polyethylene material. They were able to successfully create their first green garbage bag in Wasylyk's home and shortly thereafter they began selling them to a local hospital in Winnipeg.
About 10 years later, Wasylyk and Hansen agreed to sell their invention to Union Carbide. In the late 1960s, Union Carbide began manufacturing green garbage bags for home use under the brand name GLAD trash bags. Since then, the types, sizes and use of plastic bags has evolved to include features such as drawstrings, zip closure and a heavy-duty ply material.
The first green garbage bag has evolved many, many times over the past 60 years.
At the time the garbage bags were invented, there was likely little consideration as to how these polyethylene plastic bags would impact the climate, landfills, and oceans. As more information became available, scientists and consumers realized that the early green trash bags were not very eco-friendly. As scientists and environmentalists started to consider the impacts, it became evident that there was a need for a better solution. Like the history of the green plastic bag, we are continuing to make advancements through education and products that are more responsible to our environment. Today, many households are using compostable garbage bags in place of the early trash bags. Compostable bags are environmentally friendly and can be dropped off at a composting facility near you.