Origins of Packaging

Origins of Packaging

You might have guessed that we’re a company obsessed with packaging. Before you roll your eyes like we’re Mark from accounting trying to sell you the excitement of tax deductables - hear us out. Packaging has been around since the dawn of mankind. From our hunter and gatherer ancestors - the first packaging was simple (perhaps where the akronym keep is simple stupid came from?). They’d use gourds, leaves or animal skin to transport goods. As our nomadic ancestors evolved, so did their packaging. They settled in villages and adopted woven baskets and sacks made from animal skin as their new packaging of choice. Clever - but it’s still a long way from where we are now, and I just can’t see Australia Post not raising an eyebrow at a parcel from amazon bound in leather and twine. 

hero packaging origins of packaging baskets

As time passed, villages grew and cities formed. Infrastructure was put into place, craftspeople started businesses and new technologies and materials were experimented with. Wood became a popular packaging material for transporting both dry and liquid goods and glass blowing allowed bottles to take center stage. Suddenly materials could be transported in ways never before, to places previously inaccessible. Just as materials could now be easily moved, so could mail. The first examples of the postal system were in Ancient Egypt, where Pharoahs would send out decrees across the land. This was done via a courier (no, not quite Fastway) who would ride out and deliver the decree in person, sometimes never to return. There was no postal insurance back in those days!

hero packaging delivery messenger

The postal system (although not yet formally systemised) really began to thrive along trade routes, like the Silk Road, where early messages were written on parchment and often bound in animal skin or cloth. In the 2nd century BCE, paper envelopes were invented in China, often used for transporting gifts of money. Amazingly, we still use paper envelopes today for transporting messages (and sometimes money). That’s one piece of packaging that really hasn’t changed in centuries. In the 1600s, the first formal postal system was created in France, and in the 1800s, a school principal created the self adhesive postal stamp - an invention which saw him knighted. Those were the days. 

hero packaging old stamps

As the industrial revolution boomed, packaging grew in all of it’s forms. We saw the rise of branding rather than just packaged goods. Brand awareness grew and with it, so did marketing. We also saw a rise of disposable packaging over reusable packaging, which saw a decline in packaging materials like glass and wood and an incline in modern materials like coated paper, cardboard and eventually plastic. In the 1900s, plastic was FANTASTIC (remember?) - plastic was literally hailed as a modern day miracle material - cheap, effective, waterproof and long lasting. 

plastic packaging hero packaging

Step into the 2000s and the words long lasting have lingered on our tongue just a little too long. Previously quick to embrace the magic of plastic, in this modern day, we’re realising that plastic packaging actually wasn’t the miracle material it was once sold to be. With oceans full of this long lasting material and landfill systems that can’t handle the volume at which we’re consuming it - we see an interesting modern packaging trend. The conscious consumer. If you’d muttered those words to our great, great, great grandmothers, they’d likely have looked at you like you were insane. And not in a millenial smashed avocado kind of way. They wouldn’t have even considered these words going together. However, nowadays, it really has become the norm for customers to become more conscious of what they are consuming, and the effects their purchases have on the environment. Obviously not everyone cares - Mark from accounting still drinks 10 energy drinks a day (to get through all those tax deductions), however with the rise of information (hello Google), we have also seen the rise of conscious consumption. 

hero packaging no planet b plastic production sign

Enter eco packaging. Reusing packaging isn’t a new concept at all - however it’s definitely seen a comeback in recent decades. Reprocessing materials has become more popular as well, like recycled cardboard, glass or even plastics. Unfortunately reuse is still not the answer - with materials often only being able to be reused once or twice. This saw the rise of plant based “plastics”. This can often be a bit confusing, as there are several different types of “eco plastics”, some which truly aren’t that eco friendly at all. The best are those made to act like plastic, but which break down like fruit or vegetables. Industrial composting has seen a rise also, with many councils adopting it in their waste processing facilities. For example, many councils now have their own compost bins, which are collected weekly from residential households and industrially composted. 

Hero packaging mailers compostable

Satchels like ours, can be simply popped into your council compost bin and turned back into soil. Alternatively, you can pop them in your home compost bin as well! From the most humble beginnings, packaging has changed greatly over our history - and it’s exciting to see right now we are at the peak of packaging development, with new technologies and innovations being made constantly. We’re excited to be alive in a time where consumers are being more conscious about their purchases, and the way in which they are packaging goods. While we’re not against taking a note from our oldest ancestors and wrapping your next parcel in leaves, the next best thing are our compostable satchels - which will essentially do the same thing (without the raised eyebrows). 

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