Then and Now: Big Changes in Packaging

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As Earth911 looks back to the very first Earth Day this week, we wondered: What did product packaging look like in 1970, compared to today? From an explosion in the use of plastics to material mixtures that didn’t exist in the ‘70s, here’s how product packaging changed over the last four decades.

1. Soda bottles

plastic bottles, glass bottles
Photo: Alex Vietti, Earth911
plastic bottles, glass bottles
Photo: Alex Vietti, Earth911
Photo: Alex Vietti, Earth911
shampoo bottles
polystyrene foam
plastic bottles
blister pack

Dustin Hoffman’s character in the 1967 movie “The Graduate” famously receives the advice to look into plastics upon his college graduation; it’s an industry with a “great future.”

Just as the film predicted, using plastics to package consumer products was growing in popularity even by 1970, says Neil Seldman, co-founder and president of the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance. By the first Earth Day, glass bottles for soda had already been replaced by plastic #1 PET bottles, just like the bottles we use and can easily recycle today.

While you can still find glass soda bottles in the U.S. here and there, you’re more likely to find refillable glass bottles for sodas in developing countries today, according to Victor Bell, founder and president of consulting firm Environmental Packaging International.

Learn More: Recycling Mystery: Plastic Bottle Caps

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