9 min

Cellophane 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy

    • Business

Plastic food packaging often seems obviously wasteful. But when Jacques Brandenberger invented cellophane, consumers loved it. It helped supermarkets go self-service, and it was so popular Cole Porter put it in a song lyric. Nowadays, people worry that plastic doesn’t get recycled enough but there are two sides to this story. Plastic packaging can protect food from being damaged in transit, and help it stay fresh for longer. Should we care more about plastic waste or food waste? As Tim Harford explains, it isn’t obvious and the issue is complicated enough that our choices at the checkout may accidentally do more harm than good.

Producer: Ben Crighton
Editor: Richard Vadon

(Image: Noodles and cellophane, Credit: Getty Images)

Plastic food packaging often seems obviously wasteful. But when Jacques Brandenberger invented cellophane, consumers loved it. It helped supermarkets go self-service, and it was so popular Cole Porter put it in a song lyric. Nowadays, people worry that plastic doesn’t get recycled enough but there are two sides to this story. Plastic packaging can protect food from being damaged in transit, and help it stay fresh for longer. Should we care more about plastic waste or food waste? As Tim Harford explains, it isn’t obvious and the issue is complicated enough that our choices at the checkout may accidentally do more harm than good.

Producer: Ben Crighton
Editor: Richard Vadon

(Image: Noodles and cellophane, Credit: Getty Images)

9 min

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