Red polythene washing-up bowls, c 1985.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Polythene (also known as polyethene or polyethylene) was discovered in 1933 as the result of a laboratory accident by Reginald Gibson and Eric Fawcett, two scientists working at ICI's research laboratory at Winnington, Durham. The first patents for polythene were registered in 1936, and a year later the first practical use for the material, as a film, was discovered. Polythene was used as an insulating material for radar cables during World War II, and the substance was a closely guarded secret. After the war it began to be produced commercially and used to make a wide range of products. Manufactured by Crayonne Deluxe.