Same as most of the concepts of today, the protective packaging dates back to ancient times. Unlike now, people used whatever nature had to offer, such as wood used as box material, then moved on to producing glass, and bronze vessels as soon as they learned how to work with the production of glass and bronze in the first place.
It’s interesting to know the first packaging ever to be recorded takes us back to the year of 1035, in Cairo, from a Persian traveller, who was impressed by the way products like spices, vegetables, as well as hardware, were wrapped up in paper when sold at the markets.
Though paper can still be found as packaging, the protective wrapping material today varies greatly, from transparent cellophane, and paper, to different types of plastic, steel, and aluminium. As indicated by the name, this is the type of packing that’s meant to protect the packed products from damage.
Of course, protective wrapping material has undergone considerable changes over the years, starting from the 19th century, when paperboard cartons first came to be, but the more remarkable changes started in the 1980s, due to the increased need for recycled packaging, bringing the use of recycling regulations in the production of packaging.
As the question of waste and the environment started getting more attention, the production of protective packaging turned to reusing (along with recycling), minimisation, or rather reduced packaging, and waste prevention – the latter is still an issue that’s work in progress.
Since the typical protective packaging consists of fill peanuts, fill papers, bubble wrap, and foam edges, there’s been more concern over this type of waste, based on non-degradable raw materials which certainly have a negative impact on the environment.
This not surprisingly led to further development of the protective materials, shifting towards more eco-friendly production, relying on latest technology, where more attention is given to the choice of materials (e.g. biodegradable polymer), so we can expect to see improvements.
The packaging industry has kept on growing considerably, having in mind the current market value of protective packaging on a global level is worth about AU$33 billion, and mind you, it is expected to continue growing in the next 10 years too, at a steady pace.
When it comes to Australia, the packaging industry takes up 1% of the GDP, and no matter how insignificant it may seem, it still means there are about 30,000 people employed, so it’s not something to be overlooked.
The latest changes made in terms of recycling, mainly involving plastics, from previous 20% of being recycled going up to 35%, and paper and cardboard from about 64% up to 80%, we might as well say things look promising.