When plastic bags were first created all the way back in 1959, their intention was to help the environment, not add to its increasing woes.
There are a number of reasons our planet has wound up in the sorry state it finds itself in today, most of which have been caused by the human race. The use of fossil fuels, eating processed meats as much as we do, and perhaps the biggest problem of all, our incessant use of single-use plastics.
Packaging we use once, throw away, and it takes hundreds if not thousands of years to biodegrade. There are millions of tonnes of the stuff just sitting in landfill sites around the world, and it will continue to sit there for our lifetime, our children's lifetimes, and so on and so on. The biggest offender of all has to be the humble but deadly plastic bag.
The irony of that is the inventor created plastic bags with the intention of saving the planet, not hurting it, his son recently told BBC. Raoul Thulin, son of plastic bag inventor Sten Gustaf Thulin, told BBC, "To my dad, the idea that people would simply throw these away would be bizarre." Thulin would carry one of his inventions around with him everywhere he went, something the rest of us have only just started to do.
The reason Thulin created the plastic bag was to replace paper ones. Even today, a paper bag needs to be used at least three times to be as environmentally friendly as a plastic one. They might biodegrade more quickly, but as they're heavier they cost more to transport. Plus, they need a lot more water and energy to create them than plastic bags require.
The trouble is, it's not the energy used to create them that's the problem. It's the fact that we just throw them away when we were never supposed to. Their creator never intended for that to be the case, and for some reason, it has taken the rest of us half a century to cotton onto that. With more than two dozen countries banning the use of single-use plastic bags, Thulin's invention intended to save the world might not be around for much longer.