History of Packaging
Bronze wine container from the 9th century BCE.
The first packages used the natural materials available at the time: baskets of reeds, wineskins (bota bags), wooden boxes, pottery vases, ceramic amphorae, wooden barrels, woven bags, etc. Processed materials were used to form packages as they were developed: for example, early glass and bronze vessels. The study of old packages is an important aspect of archaeology.
The earliest recorded use of paper for packaging dates back to 1035, when a Persian traveler visiting markets in Cairo noted that vegetables, spices and hardware were wrapped in paper for the customers after they were sold.
The use of tinplate for packaging dates back to the 18th century. The manufacture of tinplate was long a monopoly of Bohemia; in 1667 Andrew Yarranton, an English engineer, and Ambrose Crowley brought the method to England where it was improved by ironmasters including Philip Foley. By 1697, John Hanbury had a rolling mill at Pontypool for making "Pontypoole Plates".The method pioneered there of rolling iron plates by means of cylinders enabled more uniform black plates to be produced than was possible with the former practice of hammering.
Tinplate boxes first began to be sold from ports in the Bristol Channel in 1725. The tinplate was shipped from Newport, Monmouthshire.By 1805, 80,000 boxes were made and 50,000 exported. Tobacconists in London began packaging snuff in metal-plated canisters from the 1760s onwards.
1914 magazine advertisement for cookware with instructions for home canning.
With the discovery of the importance of airtight containers for food preservation by French inventor Nicholas Appert, the tin canning process was patented by British merchant Peter Durand in 1810.After receiving the patent, Durand did not himself follow up with canning food. He sold his patent in 1812 to two other Englishmen, Bryan Donkin and John Hall, who refined the process and product and set up the world's first commercial canning factory on Southwark Park Road, London. By 1813, they were producing the first canned goods for the Royal Navy.
The progressive improvement in canning stimulated the 1855 invention of the can opener. Robert Yeates, a cutlery and surgical instrument maker of Trafalgar Place West, Hackney Road, Middlesex, UK, devised a claw-ended can opener with a hand-operated tool that haggled its way around the top of metal cans. In 1858, another lever-type opener of a more complex shape was patented in the United States by Ezra Warner of Waterbury, Connecticut.
Packing folding cartons of salt.
Set-up boxes were first used in the 16th century and modern folding cartons date back to 1839. The first corrugated box was produced commercially in 1817 in England. Corrugated (also called pleated) paper received a British patent in 1856 and was used as a liner for tall hats. Scottish-born Robert Gair invented the pre-cut paperboard box in 1890¡ªflat pieces manufactured in bulk that folded into boxes. Gair's invention came about as a result of an accident: as a Brooklyn printer and paper-bag maker during the 1870s, he was once printing an order of seed bags, and the metal ruler, normally used to crease bags, shifted in position and cut them. Gair discovered that by cutting and creasing in one operation he could make prefabricated paperboard boxes.
Commercial paper bags were first manufactured in Bristol, England, in 1844, and the American Francis Wolle patented a machine for automated bag-making in 1852.
Packaging advancements in the early 20th century included Bakelite closures on bottles, transparent cellophane overwraps and panels on cartons. These innovations increased processing efficiency and improved food safety. As additional materials such as aluminum and several types of plastic were developed, they were incorporated into packages to improve performance and functionality.
Heroin bottle and carton, early 20th century.
In 1952, Michigan State University became the first university in the world to offer a degree in Packaging Engineering.
In-plant recycling has long been common for producing packaging materials. Post-consumer recycling of aluminum and paper-based products has been economical for many years: since the 1980s, post-consumer recycling has increased due to curbside recycling, consumer awareness, and regulatory pressure.
A pill box made from Polyethylene in 1936.
Many prominent innovations in the packaging industry were developed first for military use. Some military supplies are packaged in the same commercial packaging used for general industry. Other military packaging must transport materiel, supplies, foods, etc. under severe distribution and storage conditions. Packaging problems encountered in World War II led to Military Standard or "mil spec" regulations being applied to packaging, which was then designated "military specification packaging". As a prominent concept in the military, mil spec packaging officially came into being around 1941, due to operations in Iceland experiencing critical losses, ultimately attributed to bad packaging. In most cases, mil spec packaging solutions (such as barrier materials, field rations, antistatic bags, and various shipping crates) are similar to commercial grade packaging materials, but subject to more stringent performance and quality requirements.
As of 2003, the packaging sector accounted for about two percent of the gross national product in developed countries. About half of this market was related to food packaging.