1800 270 210
1800 270 210
These days, paper bags are everywhere.
They can be used everywhere: to transport take-out food home, as well as in shopping bags for grocery shopping. It's easy to forget that they have been this popular since the beginning.
Before plastic was invented, paper bags were in use. It was difficult to store bulky items like metal, wood, or fiber. It was obvious that there had to be a better way, but it wasn't until the middle of 19th century.
However, paper bags have been so popular that they are now used for branding and outreach. How did such a simple product become so popular in the consumer market?
Let's follow the footsteps of those who have contributed to the paper bag journey through time.
History of paper bags
People used burlap, canvas, and jute for years to transport and hold their items. Although this was a durable option, the manufacturing process can be lengthy and energy-intensive.
Paper was first used for packaging materials in the early 19th century. It was light and could easily carry basic items. But, it was not perfect. These bags were hand-made and not readily available for everyone. They were expensive, but their design was not as elegant as we would like.
Francis Wolle, a man of German descent, was working in the family grocery store. He saw that many people couldn't bring back enough products. He began to experiment with paper bags in order to increase their ability to bring items home.
Wolle achieved his goal in 1852. He invented a machine that could mass-produce paper bags. Although his bags were not as familiar as the paper bags you might recognize, they had a greater carrying capacity than any other available. Wolle patented his machine and made millions of dollars by manufacturing paper bags.
One of the problems with paper bags has been solved. They were still not strong enough to hold light items.
Margaret Knight is an employee of Columbia Paper Bag Company. Margaret Knight was a woman who loved to tinker with machines. Margaret was 30 years old when she heard her company trying to create a machine that could make paper bags with flat bottoms.
Margaret was so intrigued by the idea that she built a prototype within six months. It was 1868 when she had a working version of the metal model. Margaret was then in a patent dispute with someone who stole her idea. She won the battle. Margaret was a feminist icon and media star, as she created the first paper bags with flat bottoms. Her invention was adopted by shop owners all over the globe, including the Eastern Paper Bag Company.
Wait, her product was slightly different than what we see today. Margaret's bags weren't foldable so there was still room for improvement. Charles Stillwell, a mechanical engineer came up with the idea to add pleats on paper bags. These bags could be easily folded and stored. They can be folded and stored easily, as Stillwell calls them "self-opening bags".
Another important development occurred. Walter and Lydia Deubener discovered a way to make paper bags stronger. The string was used as a handle and bottom reinforcement. This allowed people to carry 20 pounds of food per bag.
Paper bags were the first packaging option for department stores. They were often printed with the logo and colors of the brand.
Plastic bags were introduced in 1970s. These bags were much cheaper, and grocery stores readily accepted them. These cheap alternatives proved to be harmful to the environment and human health, but this realization was only made in the early 21st Century.
This started a trend to bring back paper bags in stores. Many grocers and shoppers now use paper bags whenever possible.
What is the composition of paper bags?
Most brown paper bags you see are made from kraft paper. This paper was made using the Kraft process, which Carl F. Dahl (German chemist) invented.
The kraft process involves heating wood chips to a high temperature and reducing them into pulp. The pulp is then bleached and cleaned many times to create the brown paper that we associate with paper bags. Kraft paper is durable and is used to make paper bags.
This paper is called sackkraft paper and it's porous, with high elasticity, tear resistance, making them ideal for packaging.
You can make paper bags from any type of paper. They can be made from any type of paper and have different sizes, shapes, and durability. Paper bags must contain a certain percentage of recycled content to be considered sustainable.
What does design have to do with the strength of paper bags
You might already have noticed the impact of small design changes on paper bags' strength as you look back at their history.
These design elements make paper bags great, from the flimsy envelope to the heavy bag that holds about 20 pounds.
The most fundamental design element is the type of paper used in making the bag. This can be determined by the weight of the paper. This is the measure of the paper's density in 500 reams.
The paper bag will last longer if it is heavier. Paper that is lighter can be used to transport documents and heavier paper can be used for grocery shopping.
The Deubeners invented the clever idea of adding handles on paper bags. They used string to make their invention, but kraft paper can be twisted into cords.
Cords are attached to the inside of the paper bag, and reinforced with other materials. This increases the bag's capacity and helps distribute the weight more evenly.
Wolle created an envelope-style bag that is still used for documents and postings. Margaret Knight's design had a flat bottom so more items could be carried. This design is becoming more popular, as it is often used at events and in grocery stores.
Gussets are reinforced areas in paper manufacturing. There are a few weak spots in paper bags, like around the handles or at the bottom. These areas can be gussetted to increase their ability to hold heavy items and prevent them from tearing.
What kinds of bags are there?
There are paper bags to suit every need on the market. These are just some of the options you may encounter.
The bags, designed by Stillwell, can be folded but still stand on their own once loaded. These bags are used often to transport lunches.
These bags are open-mouth, but have a pinched bottom. These bags can be used to store bakery products and other food products.
These bags were designed by Wolle and are flat. They are primarily used to transport documents and mail.
These can be made from recycled material, ranging in 40% to 100%. Perfect for the environment-friendly.
The humble paper bag has been through a dramatic, long and exciting journey that has seen many changes. From a fragile paper envelope, it has become a strong bag that can carry heavy items. Despite being almost destroyed, it has stood strong against plastic and is quickly making a comeback.
Remember the creative people behind this bag when you next bring something home in it!