Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Concrete bag tile made to look at size and imagine repetition. 

50 bags in chicken wire in center of concrete
22" x 22" x 4"

Concrete composites

Hempcrete (Tradical, Hemcrete wall systems) is a mixture of hemp hurds (shives) and lime (possibly including natural hydraulic lime, sand, pozzolans or cement) used as a material for construction and insulation.
>acts as insulator
>bricks absorb emissions
>stronger than concrete

Henry Miller, a graduate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, proposed the use of recycled granulated plastic embedded in concrete.
>integrity of concrete is the same
>plastic has a place other than landfills
>eliminates need to mine virgin aggregate 

The Habbakuk project took place during the late 1930s into WWII. In summary, the goal was to build an aircraft carrier out of Pykrete, a composite material made from approximately 14% saw dust (or some kind of wood pulp) and 86% ice.
>increased thermal resistance, did not melt nearly as fast as ice
>significantly stronger than ice
>easily and cheaply made and repaired
The Habbakuk project needed tests before building an aircraft carrier, so a test project was set up in Canada. (read more)


This is an idea, looking at the integration of plastic bags in concrete.

The aim of the test is to:
>act as insulator (increase R value)
>propose as low cost flooring (indoor or outdoor)
>use bags accumulating in impoverished countries

top to bottom
20 torn bags homogeneous in concrete
20 bags stuffed together in center of concrete
20 bags in chicken wire frame in center of concrete 

messenger bag

Here is a clip from Make Magazine on how to take the lamination process further and make something functional.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Laminating bags together using an iron.

>Bags become rigid when melted
>Varying thickness depending on # of bags


Properties of polyethylene


Demonstrating the size of plastic bags.

>10 pieces of packaging each made with 4 bags
>40 bags compress to about the size of a grapefruit

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

plastic braid

Braids made from plarn.

>Braids increase strength
>Exploring color and and weight of material

Plarn has a number of applications. Here I'm making some rope.


Steps to make yarn from plastic bags.

>Each bag makes 6 or 7 loops
>Chains of bags can grow

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It is more and more common to reuse plastic bags. People have repurposed bags to fit their needs and to use what they already have around. Here's a brainstorm focused around the use of plastic bags.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Recycling Center

I was excited to see the enthusiasm of the workers at this recycling center. They seem like are happy to work knowing that it is cleaning up waste. It becomes a much different environment when people are psyched on what they are working for. Although, recycling centers are productive, they use a lot of energy powering the machines. Good to know they are using a grey water system.

Friday, April 6, 2012

This American Life: Garbage

Episode 249: garbage is the theme, discussed through three personal accounts dealing with trash. This is helpful to understand that all interactions with trash are unique and that all people do not share one view of trash.


Every day each American produces 4.8 pounds of garbage. Where does it all go? Ira talks with Robin Nagle, a anthropology professor at New York University who's been studying garbage,and says that most of us want garbage to be invisible. Which, usually, it is. (4 minutes)


The people who pick up our trash don't call themselves garbagemen. They're san men ("san" being short for "sanitation"). Host Ira Glass follows a couple of New York city san men around for a day (with NYU's Robin Nagle, who's writing about about the san men), to find out what 4.8 pounds of trash per person per day looks like from street level. (12 minutes)


There are squatters who've built entire neighborhoods on top of rotting trash heaps in Mexico. They scavenge in the garbage piles for their living. Author Luis Urrea worked in one of these neighborhoods many years ago. He goes back to visit a friend who still lives there, in a small house with six teenage girls (three daughters, three nieces.) This is just fine with Luis's fourteen-year-old son, who goes with him. Luis Alberto Urrea is the author of several books of fiction and nonfiction, including By the Lake of Sleeping Children: The Secret Life of the Mexican Border and Across the Wire: Life and Hard Times on the Mexican Border. His story was produced by Barbara Ferry, with help from Sandy Tolan, Alan Weisman and Deborah Begel. It's part of the series "Border Stories" from Homelands Productions, which gets funds from The Ford Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. (19 minutes)


We hear the secret recordings that ended mob control of New York garbage collection, and talk to Rick Cowan, the NYPD detective who went undercover for three years to make them. He wrote a book about the case, with co-author Douglas Century, called Takedown: The Fall of the Last Mafia Empire. (14 minutes)

Should Plastic Bags Be Banned?

AUSTIN, TEXAS — Will banning plastic shopping bags make the roadways and oceans cleaner? Or will it merely annoy shoppers and harm factories that use recycled bags to make things like fence posts? Those were among the questions being fiercely debated at a public meeting here in Texas’s capital city last week, as Austin considers whether to impose a wide-ranging ban on plastic bags.
Ronnie Volkening, president of the Texas Retailers Association, called the proposal for a ban draconian and warned that it would “cause chaos and confusion with our customers.”
But Robin Schneider, executive director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment, countered that bags had a habit of flying everywhere and getting eaten by animals, so banning them would help the environment.
Exchanges like this are increasingly common around the world, as communities wrestle with questions about regulating shopping bags distributed at checkout counters. Already countries including China and Ireland and cities including Mexico City have adopted bans or taxes in some form on plastic bags. On Tuesday, officials in San Francisco voted to expand a ban already in place on plastic bags and to require shoppers to pay 10 cents each for paper bags. (continued)


Out of habit we interact with objects. It is inevitable that people use plastic bags, but can we really understand the sheer quantity of waste we create. Plastic bags are not troublesome for most; they are not, on a grand scale, cluttering the streets or filling ours rivers. Therefore, we don't feel responsible for problems that we don't see ourselves. In order to lessen pollution, it would take a large behavioral change to happen in our culture. If we can alter the value or purpose of plastic bags maybe we could imagine each bag caught in the bare limbs of a tree or cut appart and reassembly with a new life.

>Approximately 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. Over one million bags per minute.
>The Worldwatch Institute estimates that in the U.S. an estimated 12,000,000 barrels of non-renewable petroleum oil are required to produce the 100 billion bags consumed annually. Over $500,000,000 the country could be saving to put towards renewable energy sources.
>60,000 plastic bags are used in the U.S. every five seconds.
>The petroleum used to make only 14 plastic bags could drive a car 1 mile.
>Over 100,000 marine animals, including highly intelligent, adorable sea turtles, whales and dolphins, die every year because of plastic bags.
>In some parts of the ocean there are six pounds of plastic for every pound of plankton.
>They can take from 400 to 1,000 years to decompose but their chemicals residues remain for years after that.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Identification and Accumulation

Once production is finished the bags are distributed accordingly. The most commonly used plastic bags are found in grocery stores, convenient stores, restaurants, and a multitude of other places. These bags are made from HDPE (high density polyethylene) and marked by a number 2 inside the recycling triangle. Another type of bag is made from LDPE (high density polyethylene) and marked by a number 4. These bags are used mostly by large retailers.

HDPE       LDPE     Resin Identification Code

Because plastic bags are used so frivolously, everyone is a witness to their presence, whether they are filling up under the sink or floating across the street.

Polyethylene Bag Production

Since 1971, technology has developed to produce these bags at much faster rates.
However informative, this series present a narrow scope of mass production. The machines are glorified for their capabilities to serve our needs, but there are social, cultural, and environmental concerns left unacknowledged. This is only the birth of a bag. What is the rest of its life?

Monday, April 2, 2012

U.S. Patent 3,769,379

This machine revolutionized the sheer quantity of plastic bags that could be produced. The plastic film that is used is made through a series of heating and cooling liquid plastic. Once the machine has prepared the liquid plastic to be processed it is blown through various dyes, heated during the blown extrusion then cooled and rolled into film. (U.S. Patent 3,769,379)

Origin Overview

>1957 The beginning of the plastic bag we know so well, the first sandwich bags are sold in grocery stores.
>1966 Plastic bags used to package bread take over 25% of the market. In the same year, plastic produce bags are introduced in grocery stores.
>1969 The New York City Sanitation Department demonstrates that plastic garbage bag curbside pickup is cleaner, safer, and quieter than metal trash can pickup. A shift to plastic can liners appears among consumers.
>1973 The first commercial system for manufacturing plastic grocery bags becomes operational.
>1974/75 Retailing giants like Sears, J.C. Penney Montgomery Ward, Jordan Marsh, Allied, Federated, and Hills make switches to plastic merchandise bags.
>1977 The plastic grocery bag is introduced to the supermarket industry as an alternative to paper bags.
>1982 large supermarkets, Kroger and Safeway start to use replace paper bags with polyethylene bags.
>1990 recycling programs form to collect bags and to promote awareness about accumulating waste.
Plastic is seen as a material of the future and from its beginning attracts massive attention. SPI (The Plastic Industry Trade Association) says that "plastics improve our lives; bring us joy, convince, efficiency, and connection to others." This attitude has been embraced still today, which is reason for the broad use of plastic as a manufacturing material.
Enthusiasm for plastic begins as early as 1862 with the creation of the first man made plastic, Parkesine. Over the next century discoveries of various types of plastics (ex: PVC 1926, polyurethanes 1937, polystyrene 1938, neoprene 1939, and PET 1942) continue.

This blog exists to observe bags and their existence on our planet, to learn something about an object that we often overlook. A documentation of plastic bags in respects to their history, production, use, and potential as a recyclable material.