One might not think too much about the humble cardboard box because it is such a staple in life these days, but this unsung hero has in fact only been around since the 19th century. Imagine life today without cardboard boxes!


What is cardboard?

Cardboard is essentially very stiff paper which is both versatile and durable. There is evidence that suggests cardboard in its earliest form was invented in China more than 2,000 years ago as people used Mulberry bark to preserve food. It was around a similar time that the Chinese Han Dynasty was also credited with created the first paper, as well as this original cardboard. It wasn’t until much later on that it was used for boxes.

Starting to use cardboard for packing

China was still part of the industry when cardboard became ‘big’ in transporting goods as the silk trade took off between far eastern and European industries.

The first commercial box made of cardboard was created in England in 1817 but it wasn’t until the end of the century, 1895, that one was created in the USA. By the start of the 20th century they were beginning to replace wooden crates for many shipping jobs. Silks and cereals were early embracers of cardboard boxes for packing.

These days, all sorts of things come in cardboard boxes, including babies, as the BBC describes. This packaging affects us therefore from our earliest days and in every part of life.

Now, cardboard is so widely used in the transporting goods that the packing industry is booming and the scale of production continues to grow. With that comes the packing accessories, like strapping and tape, and that too can be big business. Specialist retailers sell machines to industry to help them pack safely and effectively.

Modern presses are able to cut and crease in a single step making production of boxes a far more efficient process, with impressive outputs. Big or small, almost everything these days comes in a cardboard box, and with its origins in paper, branding and colouring cardboard is easy.

There is also an industrial indicator based on cardboard boxes, defined here by the Business Dictionary.

Cardboard has been important in the creation of many other every day items, often for writing on, or printing signs, even for keeping tall hats stiff, but malleable enough to form the correct shape.

By corrugating or pleating cardboard, we have managed to create a material that has great insulating properties as well as their protective capabilities.

When it comes to protecting fragile objects, corrugated cardboard provides an element of elasticity that prevents breakages or damage much more effectively than a single thickness of the same material. Originally patented to protect bottles and vials, people quickly realised that it would be useful in transporting almost anything.

With today’s focus on recycling, and the relative ease of being able to reuse cardboard, it looks set to be the staple of the packing world for the foreseeable future.