Plastic UP196

In the 1860s a New York firm offered $10,000 to the person who could invent a substitute for ivory, and this spurred John Wesley Hyatt to develop a plastic polymer called celluloid. It was a revolutionary discovery seen as helping the environment by conserving natural resources and reducing the need for tortoiseshell, horns, and ivory. In the early 1900s the first synthetic plastic called Bakelite was made, and polyester, PVC, polyethylene, nylon, Styrofoam, and Teflon followed.

During WWII it was even more pressing to have inexpensive, long lasting, synthetic alternatives for our dwindling natural resources. After the War industry needed a new target market for plastic production, and throwaway consumer goods were the perfect solution. Consumers were ready to spend again, and these new disposable plastic products were perfect: inexpensive, lightweight, unbreakable and revolutionary.

In product after product, market after market, plastics challenged traditional materials and won, taking the place of steel in cars, paper and glass in packaging, and wood in furniture.
— Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, Susan Freinkel

In 1955 Life Magazine reported that, thanks to newly invented single-use products, housewives would be saved from constantly cleaning! Everything could simply be thrown away after use, with not a care in the world. The concept of using something for only a few minutes and then tossing it in the trash was not seen as being wasteful or environmentally insensitive, but was actually seen as a progressive, modern way to live. Corporations loved this new way of living; they would have life-long customers who needed to replace what they’ve just tossed.