The paper focuses on the problematisation of plastic within the public sphere. Through a case study of the Jute statt Plastik (Jute not Plastic) campaign that was conducted in Switzerland, Austria and Germany in 1976–1979, we show how ‘a politically mediated process’ can problematise plastic and thereby question consumer values. Jute not Plastic was the first campaign to politicise the public discourse connecting consumption, developmental goals and ecological pollution. Although the materiality of plastic has no fixed meaning in itself, the campaign demonstrates how social representation and sense-making through framing objects and proposing waste-avoiding alternatives can influence ways of seeing plastic. Based on previously unexamined campaign material and using the method of comparative visual analysis, the study shows how the campaign used different visual strategies to frame the jute bag as a morally charged lifestyle product in relation to the plastic bag.