The plastic bag has fallen on hard times. As recently as 1999, the film American Beauty used the image of a plastic bag dancing in the breeze as a central example of the overlooked wondrousness of the world that surrounds us. Today, plastic bags are seen by many as more of an environmental menace, with many cities banning the bags outright.
Writing in the Boston Globe, Leon Neyfakh comes down firmly on the side of wonder, noting that the plastic bag is itself an amazing feat of human ingenuity and engineering:
To its fans in the plastics industry, and there are many, the supermarket shopping bag-or “T-shirt bag,” as it’s known in the business-is a triumph of cost-effective engineering. Weighing just a fraction of an ounce, it has convenient handles, water-resistant walls, and an astonishing ability to carry up to 2,000 times its own weight. From this point of view, the bag is a runaway success that has simply outpaced our ability to contain it.