Bagman of Cantley - Packaging Materials supplied throughout the UK
| The Old Granary|
Norfolk NR13 4AZ
Tel 01603 714691
Fax 01603 715391
Prompt van delivery within our local delivery area
History of Packaging
Packaging as we know it today is the result of a long development process. It is the product of continuous research aimed at finding better methods of packaging the various goods we use, including our food, in order to ensure the best protection for them.
The very first people to tread the earth, back in the depths of prehistory, sought to conserve the surplus food collected during their hunting, fishing and food-gathering for the longest possible time, so as to be well prepared for any future food shortage. They used the leaves from trees, woven baskets and animal skins to store their food. Terracotta was used to make vessels to carry liquids.
The remains of these earthen pots and leather pouches are today the treasure-troves of archaeologists and palaeontologists. They teach them much about our ancient ancestorsí lifestyles. But it is now clear that these early forms of packaging were very rudimentary, and not a lways hygienic, with the result that daily life at that time revolved around the search for food. Most developing countries still suffer today from a lack of packaging, a deficiency that results in the loss of some 50% of their resources.
The seeds of agriculture were sown between 11,000 and 12,000 years ago, creating the need for a more effective means of protecting seeds and harvested products. Glass, which emerged in the Far East some 5,000 years before Christ, was one invention destined to revolutionise manís capacity to conserve and transport goods. At that time, glass was only used to make jewellery, but 1,000 years later the Egyptians used this material to create jars of all kinds.
Further down through the centuries, antique civilisations bequeathed us with receptacles which, to our eyes, seem rather more like works of art than everyday items. In fact, they are the predecessors of our current packaging and containers. Though technical innovations were few and far between, the collections of ceramic and blown glass which fill our museums today demonstrate the extent to which everyday containers had become indispensable tools in the daily life of our ancestors.
In the Middle Ages, wooden barrels became the most frequently used way of preserving goods. They were used for storing all kinds of solids and liquids, protecting them from light, heat and dampness. Their considerable robustness allowed them to be transported on the perilous roads of the age and to be carried by boat. It was during the industrial revolution in Europe that packaging really took off. The vast range of products made available to the consumer brought about a change in lifestyle, providing consumers with greater choice and allowing trade to flourish. The need for packaging grew.
From then on, the rate of innovation accelerated. The Frenchman Nicolas Appert invented the can in 1810. Though it was made from glass rather than metal, it represented the birth of a long-term preservation method for food. Canned food w as first put to the test by the army during the Crimean wars and during the American Civil War before it became available to consumers.
The cardboard box emerged at the end of the 19th century, a simple yet revolutionary invention. An American, Robert Gair, had the bright idea of manufacturing in bulk a pre-cut cardboard panel which, once folded, would form a box. This made the transportation of goods much easier and the box became the most widely used method of packaging at the beginning of the century due to its very low price and ease of use. Today, boxes are used to supply us with fragile and high-tech equipment, such as video recorders and computers.
In 1920, the invention of transparent cellophane marked the beginning of the era of plastic. Polyethylene, the first plastic used for packaging, was discovered in 1933Öby mistake! Aluminium foil, which came later, made it possible to effectively seal medications and other sensitive products.
From then on, a large number of technical inno vations led to the continued improvement of packaging and, consequently, to increased choice of food, thus improving our everyday standard of living. In the 1940s, packaging was developed for frozen food. In 1952 the aerosol came onto the market. Cans, available from the 1960s, heralded the explosion of the soft drinks market. Aseptic cartons, invented in 1961, have been used for preserving long-life milk ever since.
This continuous quest by mankind to find new methods of conserving food and transporting products has allowed us to substantially limit the loss of our resources over the course of time. It has allowed us to move from a society living from one day to the next, dependent on available food sources, to a world which manages its resources in the long term. Efficient packaging, which can be adapted to all kinds of goods, has made this possible. Modern packaging is what allows us to reheat a frozen meal, as well as to ensure that the Mona Lisa can be sent to the other side of the world and arriv e in one piece.
This article reproduced by kind permission of
EUROPEN - The European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment