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

Whats new on NetRegs

  • EU Exit

    EU Exit updates: Northern Ireland DAERA Brexit news, Scotland SEPA Supporting Scottish businesses with EU exit

  • Waste – Duty of Care Roles and Responsibilities

    The Northern Ireland Environment Agency has published a short guide to the duty of care responsibilities including advice and information for waste producers, carriers and those accepting, storing and treating waste.



  • EIA (Agriculture) Regulations for Northern Ireland

    Any person intending to alter the use or management of areas of uncultivated or semi-natural land must obtain prior approval from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

    Read more on the DAERA website

  • Guidance from your environmental regulator

    Regulator logos

  • 9 NEW GPPs (Guidance for Pollution Prevention) available now

    The NetRegs team at SEPA, in partnership with The Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and a number of industry bodies have produced 9 new GPPs to replace out of date PPGs. More are coming! Check the available topics

  • New guidance

    New guidance for Start-ups, charities and community projects


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