Plastic packaging has been making our lives easier since its invention in the 1800s. But how did this immensely convenient packaging come about? Here’s a history lesson in plastic packaging.
1862: Plastic made its first appearance at the Great International Exhibition in London, presented by Alexander Parkes. This material, called “Parkesine,” was bio-based and had been derived from cellulose.
Early 1900s: Cellophane was created by Dr. Jacques Brandenberger, a Swiss textile engineer. The invention came about as Dr. Brandenberger was attempting to make clothing stain-resistant through the application of a flexible, clear film.
1930: Scotch Cellulose Tape, renamed Cellophane Tape at a later date, was invented by Richard Drew, an engineer working for 3M. This greatly benefited bakers and grocers, as they were able to keep their packages sealed in a more attractive and easy way.
1933: Saran™ was an accidental discovery by lab worker Ralph Wiley of Dow Chemical. This plastic material found its first use to be providing protection for military equipment, and was later used for the packaging of food.
1946: Earl Silas Tupper worked to create the well-known, highly-convenient plastic packaging we all know as Tupperware. Mr. Tupper chose to promote his polyethylene food containers through housewives who used Tupperware sales as a source of income. The invention of airtight plastic containers is considered among the most notable advances in the history of plastic packaging.
1946: “Stopette,” a deodorant created by Dr. Jules Montenier, brought the spray bottle into the commercial world of plastics. Dr. Montenier created the spray bottle to dispense the deodorant when squeezed by consumers. Stopette was one of the sponsors of the popular program “What’s My Line”, and subsequently brought on a tremendous increase in the use of spray bottles.
1950: Canadians Larry Hansen and Harry Wasylyk are to thank for the modern garbage bag. Originally used commercially in places such as hospitals, this plastic product is found in abundance in virtually any public place you can imagine.
1954: Zipper-seal bags, created by Robert W. Vergobbi, were initially intended for use as pencil bags, but their versatility soon turned them toward food storage. Ziploc bags came about in 1968, and sandwich bags on a roll were later introduced.
1959: The first licensed character lunch box was created by Geuder, Frey, and Paeschke of Wisconsin. The tin box featured Mickey Mouse and a plastic handle. Plastic was used for the whole box in the 1960s.
1960: Sealed Air Corporation engineers Marc Chavannes and Alfred Fielding brought the world bubble wrap.
1986: Swanson TV Dinners came in microwaveable plastic trays, rather than the aluminum material used since the mid-1950s. These TV dinners were incredibly popular due to post-war fascination with time-saving devices, and the novelty of watching television.
1996: Bagged salad packaging reduced food waste and made buying fresh produce easier.
2000: Yogurt came in flexible plastic tubes for convenient snacking on the go.
2010: Heinz Dip & Squeeze was the first innovation for ketchup packaging in 42 years, allowing customers to choose whether to dispense or dip into the sauce.
Plastic has come a long way! We hope that you feel a little bit more knowledgeable about plastic packaging and its interesting timeline.