Plastic Grocery Bags, 1960-2012

Commemorating the death of a checkstand standby.

The Plastic Grocery Bag faded into the sunset in Seattle on July 1, 2012, gone but not forgotten. After a life spent helping consumers tote goods with greater ease, it was an unceremonious end for a petroleum-based creation that never asked anything in return except able hands to carry it.

As with a shortstop from the Dominican Republic, it's tough to know the Plastic Bag's exact age. Friends say it looked and acted like a vibrant, carefree, slowly degrading teenager until the days leading up to its untimely passing, murdered by the Seattle City Council. In reality, the Plastic Bag was closer to 52.

With European blood running through it, having been birthed by Swedish engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin in the early 1960s, the Plastic Bag entered this world at a time of great possibilities, and its life will shine on as a testament to what can be accomplished by a dedicated, convenient servant that's far cheaper than any of its alternatives. As a youngster, the Plastic Bag carried America's eggs during the Vietnam War. It was there for Watergate, and it suffered, like all registered Republicans and NRA members, through the Carter administration. But the Plastic Bag truly blossomed in the 1980s.

Like many things in that decade, the Plastic Bag got big. Perhaps emboldened by the iconic leadership of Ronald Reagan, or maybe just because it came of age, the Decade of Decadence was good for the Plastic Bag. It wore its sunglasses at night, so to speak. It lived it up and proliferated, spreading its services all across the globe (and eventually into a handful of Texas-sized trash islands throughout the world's oceans). Spuds McKenzie. Coke parties. Glenn Frey solo records. The Plastic Bag saw, did, and carried it all.

Of course, there's also an unsavory side to the Plastic Bag, one it never shied away from. The Plastic Bag unapologetically killed a handful of small children in the United States each year; most passed it off as convenience at a price. Those close to the Plastic Bag say it never got over being used to pick up dog shit, but it's tough to know if that's true. What is true is the Plastic Bag, through its relentless proliferation, contributed to floods in Third World countries, coldly strangled countless living things, and filled innumerable landfills with masses of lightweight plastic that will live on long after we're all dead.

But we shouldn't get caught up in the Plastic Bag's excesses or mistakes during this time of mourning. At its core, the Plastic Bag was designed to help. It carried Seattle's cereal boxes, Miller Lite, Red Vines, and Diet Coke from the store to the car and the car to the home. In a time of need, when Seattle had no one else to turn to, the Plastic Bag was there for all of us.

The Plastic Bag is survived by Plastic Six-Pack Rings and the Styrofoam To-Go Box. In lieu of flowers, please throw something into the ocean capable of choking a small marine animal. A memorial service will be held for the Plastic Bag at several area corner stores, where its many admirers will remark on how carrying one's tallboys will never be the same.

 
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