Reply To: Yellowing of archival plastic bags and tags

#132386

As a  video game museum, plastics are (sadly) at the heart of our collection. The discoloration of console cases, especially Nintendos, is a common problem.  The best article I have read about plastic discoloration is this:  http://www.vintagecomputing.com/index.php/archives/189/what-happened-to-my-snes-case-discoloration-in-classic-machines . Benj Edwards (who is on our advisory board) has done an excellent job of researching the issue and presented it in a very accessible way for non-chemists.

Plastics are sourced from all over the world, more and more from China and other developing countries, where controls are not strict, so it’s not surprising that these bags are often not what they are promised to be.  I think it’s essential that you contact your supplier, if possible, and alert them of the problem.  The response would be instructive:  while replacing defective merchandise is all very nice, are they able to track the lot that you bought and alert all the customers who received bags from that lot that there is a problem and offer replacement?  That would be the difference between customer service and service to the museum community. We all have thigs that go into storage and are not seen again for years.  If these bags are degrading, the nature of plastics outgassing is certainly degrading the artifacts around them.

Sorry for writing a book, but I spend way too much time thinking about plastic! Oh, and do’t read the “what can I do about it” part of the article above – it will give you nightmares.