Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

What is packaging?

What is packaging?

To comply with packaging and packaging waste regulations, it is important that you know what is classed as packaging.

Packaging is anything used to contain, protect, handle, deliver or present raw materials and processed goods.

Packaging includes items being used to contain or wrap products that are to be sold or being sold, such as:

  • boxes
  • pallets
  • crates
  • containers
  • bags and sacks
  • tape and materials for wrapping, binding and tying
  • disposable foodservice packaging, such as trays, plates and cups.

and also items being used to handle or support the products being sold or to be sold, such as:

  • rolls, tubes and cylinders around which flexible material, like plastic film, aluminium or paper, is wound, and that are used to present that material as a sales unit
  • clothes hangers that are sold with (as part of) the clothing item

Also considered as packaging are packaging components and auxiliary elements integrated into packaging or attached to a product and which perform a packaging function. Examples of this include the labels of products being sold, a mascara brush which forms part of the container closure and a device for measuring dosage which forms part of the container closure for detergents.

An item is not packaging if it is either:

  • part of a product, is necessary to preserve, contain or support the product during its lifespan and use, and intended to be disposed off together with the product. So, the following examples are not considered as packaging: tea bags; pots for house plants intended to stay with the plant throughout its life; CD, DVD and video cases sold together with a CD, DVD or video inside; and printer cartridges
  • integrated into the product being sold and intended to be used and thrown away with it; for example, radio frequency identification tags.


Further information

UK: Definition of packaging in Part 2 of the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2015

DAERA NI: Definition of packaging waste

SEPA: Packaging waste – an overview

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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