News

3 years ago

Are ancient packaging techniques making a resurgence?

Packaging isn’t a new phenomenon. Today we use it to keep our food safe and fresh, entice customers, and ensure they have an excellent experience. But, even over 1,000 years ago, people were using packaging to prepare their goods for transport, storage, sale, and use.

When was packaging first invented?

We don’t have a record of the first use of packaging by humans. However, many historians believe packaging was introduced by early humans who were nomadic hunters and gatherers. Their constant relocation forced them to fashion packages to carry and contain their food, tools, and other valuables. Some archaeologists place the first uses of paper packaging at around 1030 BCE when a traveller in Cairo noted how merchants wrapped vegetables, spices, and hardware in paper for the customers as they sold them.

The ancient Egyptian’s paper packaging

We don’t know how much of a role packaging played in the markets of ancient Egypt, particularly as the traveller noticed merchants wrapping items after purchase. Perhaps they intended the packaging to be used to create easier, safer, or cleaner transportation. However, even in ancient times, being able to offer a better customer care service through quality packaging would have likely been an excellent strategy to increase your customer base.

Of course, the paper back then wasn’t exactly the standard you see today. So what did our ancestors use as the first materials?

Leaves

Before humans could even make paper, there was still an array of materials that they could use to package items. For example, leaves from a variety of trees and plants made an excellent, sustainable packaging material. Some small businesses today are returning to using natural materials like palm leaves in their packaging. They want to provide their customers with a more environmentally friendly option.

In many places across the world, the practice of leaf packaging never stopped. Local communities wanted to retain a strong sense of connection to the natural world. On a commercial scale, producers clean leaves with high-pressure water to wash away debris, then mechanically press them to create boxes, plates, bowls, and even cutlery.

Nuts and gourds

People used large nuts and gourds for storage and transportation. Today, the practice is making a resurgence as we become more environmentally conscious. People are crafting gourds into sustainable packaging, and even non-packaging items like plates, bowls, and birdhouses to provide sustainable packaging and replace disposable plastic.

Animal hides

One of the most commonly assumed types of early packaging is animal skins. Wasting resources would have been counterproductive to early humans as materials were hard to come by and produce. In many cultures, when nomadic people killed an animal, they used every part to its full potential. They fashioned bones into tools, consumed all meat, and turned the skin into hides to package food and goods or create clothing. Today, we waste excessively, which has led to wide-scale environmental degradation. Raising animals is one of the worst factors attributing to climate change, and by 2050, the livestock sector could be responsible for 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions if we don’t cut down on how much meat we consume and find more sustainable agricultural methods.

Packaging is nothing new, and our ability to make bright, attractive products that engage our customers has definitely improved. However, using products like plastic and harmful chemicals in our packaging has depleted the sustainability of our methods since ancient times. Perhaps it is time to look back?

If you’re looking to improve your packaging’s impact on the environment while keeping it a customer-boosting aspect of your business, why not take a look at TPSG’s biodegradable packaging options? Our in-house design team can tailor designs perfectly to your business, ensuring high-quality packaging every step of the way. For more information, get in touch with us on 01782 213 116.

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