July 16, 2018

How carrier bags revolutionised the shopping market

The modern lightweight carrier bag, dating back to the 1960’s, is the invention of Swedish engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin.

Thulin, who worked for Celloplast, the well-established producer of cellulose film, developed a method of forming a simple one-piece bag by folding, welding and die-cutting a flat tube of plastic to produce a bag. This simple, strong bag with a high load-carrying capacity was patented worldwide by Celloplast in 1965.

It wasn’t long before others saw how these carrier bags would revolutionise the shopping market. The Dixie Bag Company was one of the first companies to pick up on this opportunity to bring carrier bags to major shopping stores, taking the shopping market by storm. By the mid 1980’s plastic carrier bags were commonplace when it came to carrying your groceries from the store to your car or home.


But what did we do before carrier bags?


There are a few who will still remember receiving their purchases neatly wrapped in paper, tied with knotted string. In fact in the pre-plastic age, around 1931, the biggest department in a UK department store was the paper-wrapping and string-knotting department, with a skilled staff of thousands!

The 2nd World War brought paper wrapping to an end when paper became a vital resource in short supply on the home front, to be conserved and re-used.

Wicker baskets and little string bags came next in the decades when shopping was done on a much smaller scale than it is today where people load up their cars, or shop online for a hefty weekly shop.

The wide-scale introduction of plastic carrier bags in the 1980’s revolutionised the shopping markets, giving shoppers the option to purchase more items, more conveniently, driving up the average cost of sale of each ‘shop’. Now, as technology advances once more, online shopping has provided a new wave of convenience, meaning even more items can be purchased even more conveniently.


The consequences of carrier bags


Carrier bags may have revolutionised the shopping market, but what effect are they having on the environment?

As the trend continued with plastic bags increasingly replacing paper bags, other plastic materials and products replaced glass, metal, stone, timber and other materials.

A packaging materials war erupted, with plastic shopping bags at the centre of often highly publicised disputes – the most common now being issues regarding the environment. This prompted plastic bag manufacturers to use different methods to produce bags that are now recyclable or biodegradable. In recent decades, in fact, numerous countries have introduced legislation restricting the sale of plastic bags, in a bid to reduce littering and pollution.

Despite our environmental awareness, the humble carrier bag is going nowhere in a hurry. But, the introduction of the plastic bag tax in countries around the world has significantly reduced the amount of single-use plastic bags.

  • In 1993 Denmark introduced charges levied for the use of plastic bags. This made usage drop by 60% quite quickly.
  • Ireland introduced a bag tax in 2002 where consumers have to purchase bags. This resulted in a 90% drop in bag usage and a great reduction in litter. When in 2007, usage was rising again; they increased the price of bags.
  • Botswana began charging in 2007 and retailers have reported a 50% drop in bag usage. Around 16 countries on the African continent have bag bans and taxes in place.
  • Here in the UK large businesses (over 250 employees) have to charge for single-use plastic bags. Since this scheme was introduced in 2014 the number of bags used has reduced by more than 80%.


Reusable Bags for life


Demand for the ‘bag for life’ and alternatives to plastic, such as cotton bags and twisted handle paper bags, is ever growing. Whilst slightly more expensive than their plastic counterpart, they have a certain style to them, part born out of their quality feel and part born out of the fact it is more fashionable to have a bag for life, particularly when that bag is branded. Think Harrods, for example.

For consumers, carrying a branded eco-friendly ‘bag for life’ is a trend that they want to be on board with, showing their concern for the environment and their support for the brands they love. If you use printed carrier bags for your business it will pay dividends to have them well branded, with a clear message that will resonate with your customers.

Whatever your line of business you will find the right fit from the range of ‘bags for life’ we offer here at The Printed Bag Shop. Canvas, Jute and Cotton bags printed with your message will be used time and again for grocery shopping, library books, gym gear and more, getting your brand out even further than the consumer who purchased.

At The Printed Bag Shop, we take our duties to the environment seriously and have introduced more and more recyclable and bio-degradable bags to our range.


Back on track


For a while we became a throw-away society; now, it seems we are getting back on track, similar to the time during the 2nd World War when there was no choice but to conserve and reuse, and we are now embracing the ‘bag for life’ idea. Bags should not be thought of as one-off convenience, but something that can be reused, recycled and reapplied. The brand that goes with each bag is a fundamental part of driving this positive, responsible repeat use of bags.

Talk to our design team if you want a ‘bag for life’ that your customers will love and re-use time and time again.