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Home > Craft Topics > Regulations > Packaging

The composition and use of packaging

The following information is for guidance only. For further information, please contact your local Trading Standards Service. 


What the law says


The Regulations require packaging to comply with concentration limits for heavy metals, and with the essential requirements on composition and the re-usable and recoverable (including recyclable) nature of the packaging.


Concentration limits for heavy metals


The concentration limits apply to lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium.

The sum of the concentration level of the above metals in the packaging, or in packaging components, must notexceed 100 parts per million (subject to certain exemptions).


The essential requirements


The essential requirements are aimed at minimising packaging weight and volume, and reducing packaging waste in line with the product's safety, hygiene and consumer acceptance.

Packaging is taken to satisfy the essential requirements if it satisfies relevant harmonised standards.

A summary of the essential requirements is given below.


Manufacturing and composition

Requirements specific to reusable packaging


All of the following requirements must also be satisfied:

Requirements specific to the recoverable nature of packaging


(a) Packaging recoverable in the form of recycling

A certain percentage of weight of the packaging materials must be recyclable, according to published standards in the Community.


(b) Packaging recoverable in the form of energy recovery

Packaging waste processed to produce energy must have a minimum calorific value.


(c) Packaging recoverable in the form of composting

Packaging waste processed for the purpose of composting must be so biodegradable that it does not adversely affect the composting process or collection of compost.


(d) Biodegradable packaging

Biodegradable packaging waste must ultimately decompose into mainly carbon dioxide, biomass and water.


Who is responsible?


Responsibility for compliance lies with the person who places the packaging or packaging components onto the market. This includes anyone who puts his/her name, mark or trademark on the package, or the importer.

The person also has a duty to maintain technical documentation to show that the packaging complies. The documentation must be kept for four years, and produced to the enforcement authority within 28 days from a request.

The cost of non-compliance could be substantial. Non-complying products can be suspended from supply, and offenders are liable to an unlimited fine if convicted on indictment.


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