The birth of the plastic bag (blame Sweden)

Plus: the countries that have most refugees, hurricanes decade by decade, and Britain’s prehistoric monuments

12 September 2015

9:00 AM

12 September 2015

9:00 AM

Old bags

The government announced details of a compulsory 5p charge for single-use plastic bags in shops. Plastic bags have only been around since 1960, when they were first produced by the Swedish firm Akerlund and Rausing, later to give the world the Tetrapak. The first store to use them was Strom, a shoe-shop chain whose owner had complained paper bags were too weak. The first plastic bags had cord handles; a design with integral handle was patented in 1965 by the Swedish company Celloplast, which went on to enjoy a decade of monopoly.

Places of refuge

David Cameron said that Britain would take 20,000 more Syrian refugees over the next five years. According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UK had a population of 126,055 in 2013, the 25th highest in the world. Who had the most?

No. of refugees
Pakistan 1.6 m
Iran 857,000
Lebanon 856,000
Jordan 641,000
Turkey 610,000
Kenya 534,000


% of overall population
Pakistan 0.8%
Iran 1.5%
Lebanon 19%
Jordan 10%
Turkey 0.8%
Kenya 1.1%

Winds of change

The Met Office wants to give names to Atlantic storms, as the US Weather Bureau has done with Caribbean storms since the 1950s. Does the number of hurricanes support the case that we are experiencing a more extreme climate?

Cat. 5 hurricanes
1930s 6
1940s 0
1950s 3
1960s 6
1970s 3
1980s 3
1990s 2
2000s 8
2010-2015 0


Cat. 4 and 5 hurricanes
1930s 16
1940s 10
1950s 16
1960s 15
1970s 8
1980s 10
1990s 14
2000s 23
2010-2015 7

Making prehistory

Archaeologists found 100 stones buried under 3ft of soil in Wiltshire which they believe made up a 4,500-year-old ‘super henge’. How many known prehistoric monuments are there in Britain?

1,300 stone circles (in British Isles), of which 76 are in England.

60 timber or pit circles (circular monuments whose edge was defined by wooden posts or by holes).

50 henges (defined as circles with a ditch inside an outer wall; Stonehenge is not now classed as a henge because its ditch lies outside its bank, a form more associated with forts).

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Show comments
  • Gilbert White

    The plastic bag fascists have won again.

  • WTF

    Swedish government definitely has a lot to answer for over the decades.

    They actively supported Germany during WWII, their immigration policies set the tone for Europes current crisis over undesirables flooding into our countries, they are a show place for the worst cases of sexual grooming, gang rape and FMG in the west and they aren’t even a bastion of open legal process as shown with the Assange case. If people think UK hate laws are bad enough, think again, Sweden suppresses free speech even better than Saudi Arabia and the press is heavily censored.

    About the only thing of worth to come from there are Swedish meat balls and even they get boring very quickly and as for IKEA, most British men start shaking if a woman mentions that four letter word !

    • Gilbert White

      Not all bad the ladies used to have impressive mammary glands though, if I remember correctly.

  • Sean Grainger

    I assume everyone knows why hurricanes now also have male names.