A Brief History of the Egg Box
August 2015

Fragile and unstable, the egg is not easy to transport. Throughout history, the various means in which eggs have been transported, illustrates a niche design evolution.

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The premise for egg transport is that it should be lightweight, made from cheap, reusable or recyclable materials. Perhaps most importantly, the eggs need to be protected, from cracking or rolling away.

It seems natural to wrap an object in whatever is closest to hand, and for the traditional Japanese farmer, this is still rice straw, a by-product of the rice crop. Free from excess or complication, this solution is beautiful and thrifty. The rice straw has strength when rigid, but is flexible enough to be tied at both ends. The eggs are protected and kept fresh.

In 1920s America, chicken farmers were posed with the problem of sending eggs in the post, in order to reach as many customers as possible, a feat which was previously considered impossible. Metal crates with cardboard egg holders were invented, with each egg carefully wrapped in tissue paper.

The metal box design evolved into wooden crates, again with cardboard inserts, to protect the eggs. But the heavy wooden crate limits its practicality, as did the laborious creation of a cardboard insert for each egg.

Plastic, folded paper and polystyrene have all been used in the evolution of the egg box, but not until the invention of a molded paper pulp egg box was there a truly sustainable and elegant solution.

Coming full circle from using the wasted rice straw, paper pulp is a commercial by-product of paper making. The paper pulp can also be made from recycled paper, and is another example of a material which might otherwise be discarded, being put to good use. The pulp is sieved before being vacuumed over metal molds. The egg boxes are then removed from the molds and dried in an oven.

The same paper pulp technology is used to make disposable urine bottles for hospitals, drinks trays, food trays, packaging inserts, bottle holders, compostable plant holders and fruit punnets.

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