As we are celebrating Canada Day we at Eco-Maid Services thought it appropriate to pay tribute to Canadian inventors Harry Wasylyk of Winnipeg, Manitoba and Larry Hansen of Lindsey, Ontario; who together invented the disposable green polyethylene garbage bag in 1950.
Initially, these green plastic bags were intended for commercial use and were first sold to the Winnipeg General Hospital. However, the Union Carbide Company, for whom Larry Hansen worked, bought the invention from the two innovators and subsequently manufactured the first green garbage bags for home use in the late 1960s under the Glad name.
How Plastic Garbage Bags are Made
Low-density polyethylene, a soft stretchy, water, and air proof substance in the form of small resin pellets or beads was invented in 1942. Through a process known as extrusion, these hard beads are heated to a temperature of 200 degrees centigrade to produce molten polyethylene which is then mixed with other ingredients to determine colour and ensure its eventual pliability; this mixture is finally placed under high pressure to produce a converted plastic polyethylene. It is then blown into a long tube where it is cooled, collapsed and cut into lengths, then sealed on one end to make a garbage bag.
Biodegradable Garbage Bags
Due to their flexibility, affordability and durability, the embracing of the plastic bag as a solution for the management of all our waste, has become a volatile threat to our environment. Our landfills are overflowing with plastic bags that will take thousands of years to decompose naturally and burning them is absolutely out of the question. “The soot, when generated, is accompanied by volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-VOCs, smoke (particulate matter), particulate bound heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) and dioxinsii and has the ability to travel thousands of kilometers, depending on prevailing atmospheric conditions, before it can drop back on earth and enter into the food chain. (http://www.saskh2o.ca/PDF/epb433.pdf)
In 1971, Doctor James Guillet, a Canadian chemist at the University of Toronto invented a plastic that decomposed in far less time when exposed to sunlight.
Things you should know about Biodegradable and Compostable Bags
· Do not buy Degradable or OXO-Degradable bags. These contain chemical additives to help them break down more quickly. However, they simply break down into smaller and smaller particles yet do not completely disappear; the plastic is still there even when you can no longer see it.
· Buy only certified; this claim is meant to verify that it is backed by solid science. Also check the instructions, as some will state that the bags should be used within a certain timeframe. Presently the most reliable certification is “Certified Compostable”; this certification is regulated and internationally agreed upon.
· Biodegradable or Compostable bags are made from plant-based materials like cornstarch and wheat
· Something is biodegradable and compostable if living things such as fungi and bacteria can break it down in the environment.
· These bags biodegrade only in the right conditions: required temperature is 50 degrees Celsius and the bag needs to be exposed to UV light. Be mindful, that once these bags are sent to the landfill they will break down more slowly and without oxygen, producing methane, a greenhouse gas much more hazardous than carbon dioxide. And biodegradable bags do not break down in marine environments at all.