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QUICK QUIZ:

What did we use before plastics?


Plastics only became common in the 1950s. See how much you know about what common things were made of before then.

Click one button from the selection and then click the submit button.

1. Spare carrier bags

plastic carrier bag

Plastic carrier bag

This is a modern plastic carrier bag which can be tucked away into a small space for carrying. What was the pre-plastic, small-space equivalent made of?

Leather
String
Cane
Cardboard
String bag

A string carrier bag

SORRY, WRONG

GOOD! You're right

Pre-plastic fold-away carrier bags were made of string netting which would screw up into a small space. They were known as 'string bags'. See how shopping goods used to be wrapped. This will open as a new page. Just close it to return to the quiz.

2. Drinking water for travel

plastic water bottle as sold in shops

Plastic bottle of water

These days when we travel, we take a shop-bought plastic bottle of water. What did people carry water in before plastics became common?

A leather flask
A glass bottle
A metal bottle
A china bottle
aluminium water bottle

Old style aluminium water bottle with cork

SORRY, WRONG

GOOD! You're right

Water for travelling was filled from the tap into purpose-made metal containers - actually aluminium for being light and non-breakable. Corks prevented spillage although they were rather unreliable, even when they were pushed in tightly as bits tended to break off. These bottles were not throw-away items. There are a number of pages on old-style travel, see the travel menu. It will open as a new page. Just close it to return to the quiz.

3. Clothes pegs

digital kitchen timer

Plastic clothes peg

Modern clothes pegs are largely made of plastic. What were the pre-plastic equivalents made of?

Twisted string
Rubber
Wood
Leather
gypsy clothes peg

Wooden clothes peg

SORRY, WRONG

GOOD! You're right

All old-style clothes pegs were made of wood. Common ones were known as gypsy clothes pegs because gypsys made them from free woodland wood by shaping two pieces and joining them together, as shown with metal bands. For more about drying clothes in bygone times. This will open as a new page. Just close it to return to the quiz.

4. Garden water-butts

plastic water butt

Plastic water butt

This is a modern plastic water butt normally used to collect rainwater. What was the early 20th century equivalent made of?

Metal
Earthenware
Brick
Wood
wooden water butt barrel old

Wooden water butt

SORRY, WRONG

GOOD! You're right

Water butts were made of strips of unseasoned wood, squeezed into shape with metal bands, so that they wouldn't leak. More about it on growing seedlings. This will open as a new page. Just close it to return to the quiz.

5. Watering cans

plastic watering can

Plastic watering can

This is a modern plastic watering can. What was the early 20th century equivalent made of?

Galvanised iron
Wrought iron
Cast iron
Copper
Old watering can

Old watering can

SORRY, WRONG

GOOD! You're right

Old watering cans were made from galvanised iron. For how they were used, see  growing seedlings. This will open as a new page. Just close it to return to the quiz.

6. Laundry baskets

plastic washing basket

Plastic laundry basket

This is a modern plastic laundry basket. What was the pre-plastic equivalent made of?

Cane
Wood
Enamel
Metal
Cane laundry basket

Cane laundry basket

SORRY, WRONG

GOOD! You're right

Pre-plastic washing baskets would be made of cane. See drying the wash in good weather. This will open as a new page. Just close it to return to the quiz.

7. Garden reclining chairs

plastic garden lounger

Plastic garden lounger

This is a common type of plastic reclining garden chair. What was the seat of the most common pre-plastic folding version made of?

Canvas fabric
Padded cushion
Blanket fabric
Wooden slats
deckchair

Canvas and wood deckchair

SORRY, WRONG

GOOD! You're right

In the past, the most common folding garden chair was known as the deckchair which is still seen on beaches today. Its back could be set to three or four positions, allowing it to be upright or reclining, and by tradition which never seemed to be questioned, the canvas seating was always coloured stripes. Wooden slatted chairs also existed but were nowhere near as common as deck chairs.

8. Mixing bowls for baking

plastic mixing bowl

Plastic mixing bowl

This is a modern plastic mixing bowl. What was the pre-plastic equivalent made of?

Metal
Glass
China
Bone
China mixing bowl

China mixing bowl

SORRY, WRONG

GOOD! You're right

Mixing bowls were made of glazed china . They were quite heavy and would readily break or chip when dropped. For more see kitchen-tools-baking.htm. This will open as a new page. Just close it to return to the quiz.

9. Breadboards

plastic breadboard

Plastic breadboard

This is a modern plastic breadboard. What was the early 20th century equivalent made of?

Metal
Wood
Rubber
Bakelite
Wooden breadboard

Wooden breadboard

SORRY, WRONG

GOOD! You're right

In the past breadboards were made of plain wood, known as white wood and they would have been scrubbed with a scrubbing brush, soap and water after (almost) all uses, making them almost white. For more see what was kept in the pantry. This will open as a new page. Just close it to return to the quiz.

10. Washing-up bowls

plastic washing up bowl

Plastic washing up bowl

This is a modern plastic washing up bowl. What was the early 20th century equivalent made of?

Earthenware
China
Enamel
Acrylic
Enamel washing up bowl

Enamel washing up bowl

SORRY, WRONG

GOOD! You're right

Washing up bowls were made of enamel, strictly speaking vitreous enamel. They chipped all too easily, showing ugly black underneath. For more see old sinks. This will open as a new page. Just close it to return to the quiz.

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