In the mid 1950s polyethylene (PE) plastic bags were developed. Films for plastic bags differ in quality and durability, however, they all suffer from oxidation when exposed to (UV-) light during exhibition.
In the series Bicycles made by the artist Andreas Slominski since 1991, it was observed that plastic bags can decay within less than 20 years. Constant load, daylight and UV radiation causes embrittlement and some bags handles, seams, and bot- toms are torn open. Thus far the conservation of plastic bags has not been an issue for conservators and there is a lack of research. Methods for their preservation have not been established.
For this study, samples of old and new PE bags were artificially light aged. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) was used to follow photooxidation by measuring the carbonyl absorption during ageing. Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) gave insight into the composition and crystallinity of aged and unaged plastic bags. Test inks for industrial testing of surface activities were used to quickly check the wetting of adhesives. The tensile strength of bonds between Japanese paper, an aged plastic bag and acrylic adhesives was tested. A plastic bag was treated using lens tissue and Lascaux acrylic adhesive 360 HV.