Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Packaging design and use - your responsibilities

Packaging design and use - requirements for all new packaging

You may only place new or reconditioned packaging on the market in the EU if it meets the following requirements.

  • Reduced package - The packaging must be reduced to the minimum, in volume and weight, that guarantees: that the packaged product has the appropriate level of safety and hygiene, and that consumers find it acceptable.
  • Reduced environmental impact - The packaging must be designed, manufactured and commercialised so that the impact on the environment when it or its residues are finally disposed off is minimised.
  • Reduced levels of noxious and hazardous substances - The packaging must not contain high levels of noxious or hazardous substances, so that the amounts of these substances are minimal when the packaging waste is landfilled or incinerated - for example, from ash or leachate, the liquid that drains from a landfill site.
  • Limited levels of regulated metals - The sum of the concentration levels of lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium in the packaging and in any of its packaging components must not be more than 100 parts per million by weight. There are a few exemptions from the limits - see “Packaging design and use - exemptions from the regulations” in this guide.
  • The packaging must be manufactured so that it can be reused or recovered.
  • For packaging you intend to be recovered by recycling, it must be manufactured so that a percentage (by weight) of the material can be recycled. The percentage varies according to the type of material and the current standards in the European Union.
  • For packaging you intend to be recovered by energy recovery, it must allow for the maximum amount of energy to be recovered - if you burn any packaging waste, it must produce more energy than is used by the incineration process.
  • For packaging you intend to be for recovery by composting, it must be of biodegradable material such that it doesn't hinder the separate collection and composting process. To be biodegradable the packaging must decompose mostly into carbon dioxide, biomass and water.


Packaging design - additional requirements for reusable packaging

In addition to the previous requirements, to place on the market packaging designed to be reusable, the packaging must meet the following requirements:

  • the packaging must be appropriate for being reused several times, in normal conditions of use.
  • once used, the packaging must be suitable for processing so as to meet health and safety requirements for the workplace
  • once at the end of its useful life, the packaging must meet one of the requirements for recovery.


Demonstrating compliance

The best way to demonstrate you comply with the packaging design requirements is to follow the European Standards on designing packaging, or the British Standards.
EUROPEN: Understanding the CEN standards on packaging and the environment (PDF 300KB)
BSI: British Standards for packaging manufacturing


Keeping records

You must:

  • be able to demonstrate that your packaging complies with the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations
  • keep records: keep evidence that your packaging complies with the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations, for at least four years from the date the packaging was first placed on the market.
  • be able to supply these details within 28 days, if requested by the enforcement authority. The enforcement authority is, in Northern Ireland, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, and, in Scotland, the trading standards departments of local authorities. 

    Northern Ireland: Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETINI)
    Scotland: Local Authorities

How you hold this information is up to you. You may need to keep a variety of document types to ensure you have evidence for all of the requirements.

You could keep records of:

  • existing technical documents on the design and use of your packaging
  • existing quality assurance documents
  • environmental management systems and auditing documents
  • documents relating to other packaging standards.


Other packaging requirements

Additional requirements may apply if you produce or use specialist packaging, such as food contact packaging or medical packaging, or packaging for hazardous chemical products.

You can read guidance on medical product packaging on GOV.UK website.
GOV.UK: Medicines: packaging, labelling and patient information leaflets

You can read guidance on food contact packaging on the FSA website:
Food Standards Agency: Food packaging requirements


Requirements for packaging used for hazardous chemical products

If you are a supplier of chemical substances and mixtures, (manufacturer, importer, distributor, downstream user), your packaging has to meet the requirements of the CLP Regulation on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures.

The packaging to be used for hazardous chemicals:

  • must not let the hazardous chemical escape
  • must not get damaged by the hazardous chemical
  • must be strong enough to allow normal handling conditions
  • if it is re-closable package, must continue to prevent escape after repeated use,
  • in some cases, must not have a shape or designation likely to attract the curiosity of children or mislead costumers
  • in some cases, must have child resistant closures or fastenings, and tactile warnings for visually impaired costumers

There are labelling requirements for this packaging. Find out your obligations under these regulations in Classifying and labelling chemicals.


Further information

BIS: Government Guidance notes October 2015 – Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations

Guidance on Labelling and Packaging in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008

Health and Safety Executive (HSE): Labelling and Packaging 

In this Guideline

What is packaging?

Obligations for packaging design and use -who do they apply to?

Packaging design and use - your responsibilities

Packaging design and use - exemptions

Packaging producer obligations - who do they apply to?

Producer compliance schemes

Packaging producers: Individual route

Reprocessing and export of packaging waste

Packaging: reduce, reuse and recycle

Packaging: environmental legislation

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