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Incredible Inventions

Garbage Bag

Inventors: Harry Wasylyk (dates unknown), Larry Hanson (dates unknown), Frank Plomp (dates unknown)

Every garbage day, millions of metal garbage cans would make a huge clatter as the bins were emptied and thrown back down.

Photograph of children playing by garbage at the curbside

Garbage day before the invention of garbage bags

Photograph of two men working at a Toronto dump before the invention of garbage bags

A Toronto dump before the invention of garbage bags

Enter Winnipeg inventor Harry Wasylyk who, after the Second World War, began experimenting with a new material called polyethylene. Harry made his first plastic bags in his kitchen and supplied them to the Winnipeg General Hospital to line their garbage cans. He quickly moved his kitchen production to a plant. Around the same time, Larry Hanson, an employee at Lindsay, Ontario's Union Carbide plant began to make garbage bags to use around the plant. Union Carbide knew a great idea when it saw one. The company bought Wasylyk's business and began producing the garbage bags from the leftover polyethylene resin piling up at its Montréal plant. Another Canadian, Frank Plomp of Toronto was also working on the same idea in the 1950s. He sold his garbage bags to hospitals and offices. Three inventors working on the same idea at roughly the same idea, and all of them Canadian!

Scientists and consumers are now concerned with all the plastic garbage bags that are ending up as landfill. It may take more than a thousand years for some plastics to decompose! Part of the solution may come from another Canadian invention. In 1971, University of Toronto chemist Dr. James Guillet developed a plastic that decomposes when left in direct sunlight. Dr. Guillet's degradable plastic was the one millionth Canadian patent issued! Now someone just has to figure out how to make plastic decompose when buried!


Bowers, Vivien. Only in Canada!: from the Colossal to the Kooky. Toronto: Owl Books, 2002.

Spencer, Bev. Made in Canada: 101 Amazing Achievements. Toronto: Scholastic Canada, 2003.