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The Platonic bag

Apparently Glad has scored a bit hit with its new ForceFlex garbage bags — which can stretch to seemingly impossible dimensions, and thus contain the ever-greater volumes of nonrecyclable carcinogens the average American family craps out every day. (“Hey honey, Johnny doesn’t like his Jungle Gym anymore!” “No problem, sweetie — we’ll just shove it inside a single ForceFlex garbage bag and send it off to the dump so Johny’s grandchildren can drink the entire goddamn thing 80 years from now when it leaches into the water table.”)

Anyway, there’s a great piece by Brendan Koerner in today’s New York Times, in which he interviews Glad and discovers some interesting facts about the design process:

A ForceFlex bag looks a bit like an overgrown paper towel, with row upon row of embossed diamond shapes. Those patterns, explained Shaun T. Broering, Glad’s technology leader, make the bags stronger and more flexible: each diamond is ribbed with tiny indentations, which can puff out considerably when pressure is applied from within.

Glad, a subsidiary of the Clorox Company of Oakland, Calif., spent several years adjusting ForceFlex’s diamonds for design and maximum strength. They could have chosen bigger diamonds, which would have allowed the bags to better withstand errant chopsticks or cereal-box corners. But consumers who tested early ForceFlex prototypes were wary of too much of a departure from unadorned bags.

“When the diamonds get too big, that’s a real problem for us,” said Eric Reynolds, a marketing manager at Glad. “We can’t push consumers too far.”

No wonder this country has such trouble dealing with the impact of consumption on the environment. Not only do we have no problem with generating enormous amounts of trash — but we’ve got an aesthetic for it.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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