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History of the Plastic Pail Industry

In the 1967 United Artist’s movie The Graduate, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) was given some very valuable advice…
The future can be summed up in one word: “Plastics…”
In this time period the plastics revolution was definitely beginning. The plastic pail industry was born in this same era with planning and designs being formulated as early as 1965. Actual pails were molded and sold in 1967. The pioneers of plastic pails include Bennett Industries as the official first producer with Roper Plastics, Vulcan, Gilcrest Davies, US Steel, Letica Corporation, Plastican, Rheem Manufacturing, Landis Plastics and Paragon Molding all participating as early pioneers and inventors in the new born development and improvement of these products. Canadian producers were also working on their own plastic pail projects about this same time.
The pail business was started with the persistence of many entrepreneurial individuals that had to continuously urge and prod resin producers, molding machine manufacturers and color compounders to work with them to develop materials and processes. All of these areas needed improvements and a great deal of developmental work to make pails so they were strong enough and not brittle. Plastic pails were introduced intending to replace packaging such as glass jars, metal pails, tins, steel drums and boxes. The first few years were spent doing a lot of sampling and testing with targeted products including paint, food products like pickles and sauces, drywall joint compounds, adhesives, and lubricants. Once plastic pails started being accepted there was no turning back. The primary replacement was with those packing in lined metal pails. Plastic pails offered a more durable material in handling as well as a cost savings. Many potential customers in varying industries initially viewed plastic pails timidly but became users literally over night with the completion of positive testing. This caused some early supply problems as companies geared up to meet the demand. One producer recalls having a 6-month lead-time in 1970.
Many challenges and obstacles arose in the early years. The FDA needed to approve plastic pails. Similar approvals needed to be obtained to ship by rail and trucks by the Department of Transportation. One test that was done included shipping 5 gallon plastic pails filled with water and others filled with sand from California to Washington DC via a very rough LTL ride. When they arrived in one piece with no breakage or leakage, the first national motor freight approvals were granted.
The first plastic pails were designed to be used with metal lids just like those used on metal pails. As popularity of plastic pails continued to grow plastic lids were introduced in 1971 and 1972.
In 40 years, an industry has invented, developed, and launched introduction of the 5 gallon plastic pail that has become one of the most dominant and valuable shipping containers known in the world. The plastic pail was quickly accepted by all major industries as the preferred package. It does not dent or crease in distribution and storage, it does not rust and it has recycling potential.
Many of the original companies are still around and continue to produce plastic pails either under their original names or as part of bigger companies through acquisitions and mergers. The industry has continued to improve and expand with varying sizes and shapes now available. The drive has always been to manufacture shipping containers that will withstand rigorous distribution and handling practices as independent containers and lids not requiring any additional packaging for protection.
The Pail Industry Manufacturers have unified their efforts through the Plastic Shipping Container Institute, PSCI, by jointly working on various projects. The Infant Warning Label ASTM Standard was spearheaded and formulated by this group. New and updated National Motor Freight Regulations and Rail Shipping Standards were also written by this group and were presented and adopted in recent years. The PSCI is committed to industry improvements through its members’ joint efforts.

The future was and still is PLASTICS........