Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Packaging: reduce, reuse and recycle

Reduce, reuse and recycle packaging waste

Even if the packaging regulations do not apply to you, it is a good idea to reduce, reuse and recycle packaging. This can save your business money and reduce your waste disposal costs.

Good practice

Buying packaging and packaged products

Create guidelines for packaging for your staff to follow when buying goods for your business.

Buy goods in bulk to reduce packaging. For example:

  • buy paint in one 5-litre drum, instead of buying five individual 1-litre drums
  • buy bigger jars of coffee, instead of buying smaller jars frequently.

You could also:

  • remove disposable plastic cups from drinks machines, and ask staff to use their own mugs instead
  • use bowls of sugar, jugs of milk and reusable or biodegradable cutlery, when organising events, meetings or conferences, instead of many small, individually packaged products
  • buy recycled office stationery that uses recyclable or biodegradable packaging.

Selling packaging

If you sell packaging, tell your customers about the return, recovery and collection facilities available to them.

Use recyclable or biodegradable materials to package your products.

Reusing packaging

You could:

  • introduce returnable and reusable packaging in co-operation with your supply chain and customers
  • shred old paper to reuse as packaging filling
  • keep old bubble wrap or polystyrene to reuse as packaging
  • reuse packaging such as wooden pallets, cardboard boxes or jiffy bags.

The NIEA has produced a guidance that explains the reuse of materials, and when waste legislation does not apply.

NIEA: Regulatory Position Statement – Reuse of Material

SEPA has produced guidance on how the waste regulations apply to reuse of goods.

SEPA: Reuse Activities and Waste Regulation

Disposing of packaging

Reduce, reuse and recycle your packaging waste. Separate different types of packaging for recycling - this should reduce your recycling costs.

Cover any waste packaging stored in skips to prevent pollution and to minimise wind-blown dust and litter.

If packaging is intended for reuse, make sure you have documented the systems for supply, return, reuse and refill.

If there is a risk that the packaging could have been contaminated during its use, you must ensure it is kept dry and that any run-off doesn't pollute water or land. Ensure your site drainage system is connected to the sewer system.

Buy a compactor or baler, which crushes packaging into blocks. This will allow you to transport larger volumes of packaging, which will reduce your recycling or disposal costs.

Reduce, reuse, recycle your business waste

Further information

Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN): Publications

INCPEN: Sustainability checklist for 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

Environmental News Blog

NetRegs on NetRegs on youTube

View our latest videos & subscribe to our channel.

NetRegs Update Newsletter

Free monthly email newsletter with environmental updates for Northern Ireland and Scotland

Sign up for free today!


NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms