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Who Invented the Green Garbage Bag?

How Garbage Bags Are Made

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Man Tying a Garbage Bag

Man Tying a Garbage Bag

Alex Wilson/Getty Images
The familiar green plastic garbage bag (made from polyethylene) was invented by Harry Wasylyk in 1950.

Canadian Inventors Harry Wasylyk & Larry Hansen

Harry Wasylyk was a Canadian inventor from Winnipeg, Manitoba, who together with Larry Hansen of Lindsay, Ontario, invented the disposable green polyethylene garbage bag. Garbage bags were first intended for commercial use rather than home use, and the new garbage bags were first sold to the Winnipeg General Hospital.

Coincidentally, another Canadian inventor, Frank Plomp of Toronto also invented a plastic garbage bag in 1950, however, he was not as successful as Wasylyk and Hansen were.

First Home Use - Glad Garbage Bags

Larry Hansen worked for the Union Carbide Company in Lindsay, Ontario, and the company bought the invention from Wasylyk and Hansen. Union Carbide manufactured the first green garbage bags under the name Glad Garbage bags for home use in the late 1960s.

How Garbage Bags are Made

Garbage bags are made from low density polyethylene, which was invented in 1942. Low density polyethylene is soft, stretchy, and water and air proof. Polyethylene is delivered in the form of small resin pellets or beads. By a process called extrusion, the hard beads are converted into bags of plastic.

The hard polyethylene beads are heated to a temperature of 200 degrees centigrade. The molten polyethylene is put under high pressure and mixed with agents that provide color and make the plastic pliable. The prepared plastic polyethylene is blown into one long tube of bagging, which is then cooled, collapsed, cut to the right individual length, and sealed on one end to make a garbage bag.

Biodegradable Garbage Bags

Since their invention, plastic garbage bags have been filling our landfills and unfortunately most plastics take up to one thousand years to decompose.

In 1971, University of Toronto chemist Doctor James Guillet invented a plastic that decomposed in a reasonable time when left in direct sunlight. James Guillet patented his invention, which turned out to be the millionth Canadian patent to be issued.

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