21/01/2021 Corporate news

UN approved plastic packaging… Is it necessary? Why?

According to United Nations statements, more than 6000 types of hazardous substances are currently circulating without adequate protection. This, consequently, could provoke serious material, personal and economic consequences. The way to prevent these substances from causing a problem is clear and simple: always pack your dangerous products with UN approved packaging.


What is “UN approval”?

In the process of producing and distributing hazardous substances, the manufacturer is responsible for using safe packaging. Any package containing these goods must meet minimum performance standards.

UN approval is the way to ensure that a packaging meets the conditions necessary to pack hazardous substances in a completely safe way. Besides, in some cases, hazardous substances can be distributed even without secondary packaging, as long as primary approved packaging is used, saving costs to the manufacturer.

When talking about approved packaging, it is the packaging manufacturer who has to comply with certain design and packaging standards. This plastic packaging will have to be tested and certified. A Test Laboratory will evaluate the physical and chemical performance to comply with the requirements of a quality management programme controlled by the Approval Authority.

An accredited testing Laboratory will check factors such as chemical compatibility with the product, the temperature that can withstand in good condition or physical resistance, among other characteristics of the packaging.

Once the Testing Laboratory informs the manufacturer of the positive results, it shall issue an approval act allowing the manufacturer to mark its approved packaging for the following 5 years, with that laboratory responsible for granting the extensions.

Having obtained the UN test report, the packaging producer will mark the UN code on each single package produced. This code will give the information on manufacturer’s data, country, number and approval body, year of manufacture, packing group, test pressure and symbol of UN-verified packaging…

This information will ease the identification of an UN approved packaging and ensure traceability of packaging and compliance with all security measures established by the UN.


Packaging and regulations… requirements to be met?

All packaging of these hazardous goods is required to obtain this UN approval from an accredited official laboratory or by the competent authorities of the country of origin of the packaging manufacturer.

As mentioned above, one of the requirements for UN approval is to include in the packaging all the information relating to both the content and the packaging itself. Packaging must pass stacking and fall tests, among others, and must comply with the requirements imposed in relation to  the substance it contains, quantity, weight, etc.

All these approved packaging requirements and regulations are set out in the  ADR  (European Agreement on the International Transport of Dangerous Goods). Annex A to this document includes all the actions that need to be taken in relation to packaging before sending a product and distributing it. This section includes actions to be carried out such as the classification of the goods, the generation of the relevant documentation, the pre-shipment controls of the goods, etc.

The ADR establishes 13 categories in order to classify dangerous goods, grouped according to their level of risk:

  1. GROUP I (X), Very Dangerous Materials.
  2. GROUP II (Y), Medium-hazardous materials.
  3. GROUP III (Z), Materials of minor hazard.

Annex B, on the other hand, includes all information relating to transport, the type of vehicle that will transport the goods, equipment, the choice of driver, etc.

These annexes are updated every two years, so all information regarding approved packaging iskept up to date and available on the internet.

However, the RID, IMDG, IATA and ICAO regulations also collect the necessary information for approved packaging for the maritime, air and rail transport of dangerous goods.

barrier packaging

Infographic source: labelmaster.com


The packaging approved from the user’s point of view

When manufacturing and putting dangerous substances into circulation, it is vitally important that it is carried out with safe packaging, as any personal or material damage they may cause would be the direct responsibility of the manufacturer.

However, it is also the consumer’s responsibility to choose brands that meet all safety requirements and to do so, it is important to know how to identify them.

At the bottom of the packaging, the user can find the packing code. The first thing the user should check on approved packaging is that the code shows the symbol “UN” indicating that the regulations of the united nations are complied with. Knowing this, the user can have the guarantees that the packaging meets   the specifications and requirements that the UN has imposed for the transport and sale of dangerous goods.

However, in addition, this code will continue with an arábiga figure, a composite code indicating for which substances such packaging is permitted and the degree of hazard, it will also indicate the relative density or maximum gross weight in kg, the year of manufacture, the country of approval, the number of registration in the official register and the name (or anagram) of the manufacturer.

This code must be permanently engraved in order to identify approved packaging throughout its useful life. Howver, approved packaging must also include a label where all this information remainsvisible. Non-compliance with UN packaging requirements or incomplete labelling could cause the sale or movement of the goods to be prohibited at the point of destination.

The dangerous goods packaging sector is complex, and any failure in packaging or sorting could incur large costs for the company that markets the product. Therefore, at Alcion Packaging Solutions, we believe that having the knowledge and control of approved packaging experts is essential to ensure that they are safe, comply with all current regulations and therefore cannot cause any personal injury or economic loss.