Inventor: Sten Gustaf Thulin

Who Invented the Plastic Bag?

Sten Gustaf Thulin (1914–2006), a Swedish package designer, created the plastic shopping bag. Although most modern distributors refer to Thulin’s design as the “T-shirt bag,” it is unclear how the bag got its name. One explanation is that if you attempt to wear one, it looks and wears like a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. Thulin specialized in package design and experimented with different materials to hold, ship, and preserve consumer goods. During the early 1960s, Thulin contemplated a convenient, aesthetically pleasing, and cost-effective way to carry goods from points A to B. The design he came up with was the “Bag with handle of weldable plastic material”.


The original patent for “Bag with handle of weldable plastic material” – 1965 Via Google Patents.

Thulin described the object as a “bag composed of a polymeric weldable sheet material…having front and back panels” with their “bottom edges welded together to form a closed bottom for the bag,” with and “the front and back panels having top edges welded together to form handle loops.”  The bag was patented by Cellopast, a Sweden-based packing company, in July 1962. However, few people knew about or used plastic bags when they were first invented. Some U.S. newspapers published articles encouraging consumer use during the 1960s and provided “a few ways” for consumers “to use plastic bags.” [1]

Single-use plastic bag Via. Darjeelingprerna

Following the 1962 breakthrough of Thulin’s T-Shirt bag patent, Celloplast produced two important machines: one that stacked bags quickly and an apparatus for separating and sealing bags. It is important to ask the question, did Thulin know his plastic bag would impact the world? In thinking about busy consumers, did he also realize how the plastic bag would change human behaviors and ecosystem health across the globe? [2]





Before the Bag                                                         Break it Down




[1] “About Your Home.” The Daily Notes, December 31, 1963. Accessed May 10, 2018. Bags.

[2] Zhang, Sarah. “Throwing This Out Here: Plastic Bags Are Amazing and You Should Appreciate Them More.” Wired. June 03, 2017. Accessed May 01, 2018.