A day or two ago, local ITV featured a news item about a man who had kept the same plastic bulk issue shopping carrier bag for 34 years, using it from time to time.

The bag celebrated 50 years since the first Tesco store was opened in 1929, and he had acquired this one in 1981, the year of the first London Marathon.

Since I worked in the physics and chemistry of plastics for 38 years, this cheered me considerably.  It is sad to see such wonderful materials treated as cheap waste, especially when they are allowed do foul the seas and break down into particles potentially hazardous to marine life, and larger items to harm sea birds.

Choice of materials is important.  So often certain bags have become unusable through sweating of plasticizer.  In the garden, black plastic pots have survived for decades because the carbon black pigment dissipates the impact of solar radiation, while other-pigmented ones, even ones “uniform with this volume and in the same series”, have split and become unusable.

So, please respect these materials.  I am reminded of the Australian TV children’s sci-fi serial Tomorrow’s End, where in the 25th century they discover a five hundred year old tourist souvenir tray with a map of Sydney.  One of the characters exclaims;

Look at that — plastic!  They really made things to last in those days!