No Excess Baggage

THE BAG: Carrier bags in Singapore from the 1950s to the 1980s is a small but interesting exhibition about an everyday object that we are all familiar with. Looking at the graphic design on the bags we can see how a once functional object became consumed by retailers as advertising containers.

The choice of materials for a bag have also evolved with Singapore’s economy and society. In the 1950s, Singaporeans used newspapers and rattan bags. Then, came bags made out of kraft paper that were recycled from cement bags. These were created by a cottage industry. Eventually, cheap plastic bags flooded the market and established themselves as the carrier bags we use today. But, it seems we are approaching a full circle in the evolution of carrier bags. To protect our environment from the excess wastage of disposable carrier bags, consumers are now asked to bring their own bags instead.

My one gripe is the exhibition stopped at 1980. I would have loved to find out how red plastic bags and the white plastic bag with our national symbol printed on it came about. Plus, it’ll be interesting to trace how Singaporeans learnt to fold their plastic bag into the small triangle, which makes storing plastic bags really handy.

This exhibition will be held in the National Museum till April 18. It is free.

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