Plastics were invented nearly 100 years ago, purely by accident and then someone discovered that they could make very fine but very strong thread using a polymer called Nylon. It’s first very important use was to make parachute harnesses for the Royal Air Force in World War 2. The fine thread was also used to make Nylon stockings which did not tear or run.
The world’s first fully synthetic plastic was bakelite, invented in New York in 1907 by Leo Baekeland who coined the term ‘plastics’.
The BPF Plastics Timeline
Watch the video from British Plastics Federation to learn more about the development of plastics and their legacy.
Age of Plastic
It was not until the 60s that people started to see them in other guises, like plastic flowers and toys in packets of breakfast cereal or washing powder. Then plastic bowls and other objects started appearing as well as plastic bottles and the age of plastic really took off. This wonder material was cheap to buy and much more durable than traditional material and it is that durability that makes it such a danger to us and to our Planet. It does NOT biodegrade. It can break down into small pieces and then, eventually, into much smaller microfibres.