How to solve the plastic packaging paradox
Today, plastic packaging has a bad (w)rap.
But the first commercially viable version of the now ubiquitous material – cellophane – was conceived in a more innocent age, before anyone worried about plastic in landfill, or the sea, or the food chain.
It begins in 1904, at an upmarket restaurant in Vosges, France, when an elderly patron spilled red wine over a pristine linen tablecloth.
Sitting at a nearby table was a Swiss chemist called Jacques Brandenberger, who worked for a French textile company. As he watched the waiter change the tablecloth, he wondered about designing a fabric that would simply wipe clean.
He tried spraying cellulose on tablecloths but it peeled off in transparent sheets. But might those transparent sheets have a market?
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