The History of Flexible Plastics

Plastics are so present in modern life it can be difficult for people to imagine a world without them. The invention of various plastics made it possible to protect products up until their time of use, greatly increasing storage times and reducing the waste of fresh produce. Innovation in the plastics industry is ongoing and evolving in multiple directions to reduce environmental impact, improve recyclability and increase the scope of accessible material properties. In this article, we will briefly discuss this history of flexible plastics and how they have changed the world.


Parkesine is largely recognised as the first man-made plastic and was produced from a starting stock of cellulose. It was a characteristic thermoplastic, mouldable when hot and it retained its shape when cooled. 


Cellophane was the first clear flexible, water impermeable plastic film. It was invented in the early 1900s after a Swiss chemist began researching ways to protect table cloths. One of its earliest uses was as a plastic packaging to wrap candy. Later, a DuPont chemist developed a way to make cellophane not only impermeable to water but also moisture, and the applications for this newer material saw cellophane spread.


Polyethylene (PE) was first synthesised by accident in 1898, but it was not until around World War II that a readily reproducible and scalable synthesis was developed. At that time, its use as an electrical insulator made it highly important to protecting coaxial cables of radar sets. Subsequent innovations improved the ease of PE synthesis and led to a diverse range of accessible materials utilising this polymer.

Low Density Polyethylene

Low density polyethylene (LDPE) is one of the most commonly produced plastics in the world today. It is the material which makes up plastic bags and other thin film plastics. Its transparency is related to its density, and the thicker the film of LDPE, the more opaque it becomes. LDPE is the most common material for producing flexible packaging.

High Density Polyethylene

High density polyethylene (HDPE) is another material made of the same PE polymer. HDPE is also used as a packaging material, but it is far more rigid than LDPE and it is used for things like toys and milk bottles.

Need Sustainable Plastic Solutions?

Dolphin Plastics & Packaging is a leading flexible packaging manufacturer based in Queensland. We are committed to producing sustainable plastic packaging solutions for organisations in a variety of industries across Queensland and down the east coast of Australia. To find out more about how we can help you, call Dolphin Plastics & Packaging today on (07) 5610 5278 or contact us online.