Traditional Packaging Materials

Thungchano S Ezung

 Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Wokha


World over, there has been growing concern about environmental degradation caused by synthetic packaging material. These synthetic packaging materials, which is convenient to use, take hundreds of years to break down, and when they breakdown, they releases poisonous material into the water and soil. They can also choke the animals on land and in the sea, which may eat these inadvertently.


It is because of this adverse impact on the environment that countries and environment conscious people across the world are looking for environment friendly and biodegradable packaging materials.


Although traditional processing represents a low cost option for many small scale producers, these packaging methods don’t always support sustainability and in most cases are creating unnecessary wastage.


Improved technologies are usually techniques that require little in the way of expensive equipment, but at the same time increases the quality and efficiency of the process.


In earlier days, natural materials were used in packaging such as tree leaves, bamboo, lotus leaves, palm leaves, gourds, coconut shells, shells of shellfish, animal skin etc. Later on manmade material were used including fabrics, ceramics, metals, lacquer ware, wood ware, jade ware, paper etc.


As early as the late years of the primitive society, packaging had already started. Bamboo tubes, gourd shells, coconut shells, shells of shellfish were use to hold solid objects. Sometimes commodities were directly wrapped in bamboo leaves, lotus leaves etc.


Treated skin:


Treated skin such as leather has been used for many countries as a non-breakable containers or bottle. Water and wine are frequently stored and transported in leather containers (camel, pig and kid goat hiders). Flour and solidified sugar are also packed in leather cases and pouches.




The earthen ware or pottery wares emerged in the Neolithic age was the first great invention of manmade packaging materials, they have the advantage of being durable, antiseptic and anti worm eaten. They also excel in being various in forms.


Earthenware is used worldwide for storage of liquids and solid foods such as curd, yoghurt, beer, dried food, honey etc. Corks, wooden lids, leaves, wax, plastic sheets or combinations of these are used to seal the pots. If well sealed, it is a gas, moisture and lightproof container. Unglazed earthenware is porous and is very suitable for products like curd that need cooling. Glazed pots are better for storing liquids such as oil, wine as they are moisture proof and airtight if properly sealed. They are lightproof and if clean, restrict the entry and growth of micro-organisms insects and rodents. One should ensure that the glazing of the earthen does not contain lead. They cannot be used for acidic drinks and other products which are to be stored for a long time.


Depending on location and locality, various types of plant leaves are used as wrappers.


1. Banana leaves


Banana leaves are a Traditional Packing Material. Many ancient, cultural cuisines were wrapped in banana leaves for storage. These thick, glossy leaves hold moisture in and don't easily degrade, thereby making them a perfect food saver. Banana leaves are used in supermarket store as plates and food wrappers. Vegetables are weighed bundled in banana wraps. Apart from this, cooked food like solid rice items are also wrapped in banana leaves and are available in the market. Banana leaves are said to impart a special flavor to foods and can even be used to steam food.  


2. Thaumatococcus danielli


Leaves of T. danielli are mostly used as food wrappers. The popularity of these leaves as a food wrapper material is not only in villages, but has gained widespread acceptance in the towns and cities for buy and eat foods packaged in such, even among the elites who consider the packaging (wrapping), as not only exotic, but also for flavour enhancing also the use of this leaves as packaging material varies with tradition/culture.


Food wrappers (packaging) are meant to preserve, extend shelf life, retain nutrients, and present food for consumption to the end user, amongst other uses. Thus, there are a lot of technologies or techniques used in packaging/wrapping foods. This varies with geographical location, level of industrialization, urbanization, economic status, desired effect of manufacturer, and preference of the end user. Traditional packaging technology not only provides the function of protecting and portability but also provides safety and taste in the product. The materials like leaves and bamboo not only make an appearance in traditional packaging look more natural, but also affect the flavor and the smell in products. In addition, traditional packaging has stronger construction compared with the modern packaging. The usage of natural materials at traditional packaging, in addition to environmental friendly is also superior in being cheap and were easily obtained.