These regulations also set standards concerning how packaging can be safely reused, recycled or disposed of.Appropriate packaging helps ensure that products arrive at their destination without damage and enables manufacturers to provide essential information for end users. However, excessive packaging can breach regulations and damage the reputation of a business.
This factsheet provides a summary of the main packaging regulations and explains the
requirements that must be met in order for packaging to comply with the law.
Which regulations cover packaging?
The main UK-wide legislation is the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2015 ('the Packaging Regulations'), which implement Directive 94/62/EC on Packing and Packaging Waste into UK law.
Other important regulations include:
• The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007 and the
Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007, which are intended to ensure that the UK Government meets the recovery and recycling targets set out by Directive 94/62/EC. Both sets of regulations are referred to collectively as 'the Producer Responsibility Obligations Regulations' throughout the rest of this factsheet.
• The Weights and Measures (Packaged Goods) Regulations 2006 and the Weights and
Measures (Packaged Goods) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011, which are intended to
protect consumers from short measures by placing duties on packers and importers. Both sets of regulations are referred to collectively as 'the Weights and Measures (Packaged Goods) Regulations' throughout the rest of this factsheet.
What is packaging?
Under the Packaging Regulations, 'packaging' means any item that is used to hold, protect, handle, deliver or present goods at any point in the supply chain.
The Regulations explicitly include items that perform another function, as well as one of the functions listed above within the definition of packaging, unless the item forms an integral part of the product and is necessary to contain, support or preserve that product throughout its lifetime.
For example, the wax around cheese, printer ink cartridges and soluble 'skins' for washing machine pods are outside the definition of packaging. In contrast, coat hangers and matchboxes are classed as packaging under the Regulations. In addition, the following items are explicitly defined as packaging:
• Components or ancillary items that are attached to or integrated into packaging, such as gift tags tied to or glued on wrapping paper, unless they are an integral part of the product and intended to be used, consumed or disposed of together.
• Items sold or supplied separately to products that are designed or intended to be used to be filled at the point of sale, including disposable items. Examples include pic 'n' mix cups, wine carriers and carrier bags. Schedule 5 of the Packaging Regulations lists illustrative examples of packaging. Go to www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/1640/schedule/5/made to view the Schedule (as originally published) in full.
The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2015
The Packaging Regulations place a duty on 'responsible persons' to ensure that packaging placed on the market complies with the essential requirements ('general duty relating to the placing on the market of packaging'). They also require responsible persons not to place any packaging on the market if it contains more than a minimum amount of regulated metals, such as lead and mercury, and empower enforcement authorities to request technical paperwork from responsible persons which demonstrates that packaging meets the essential requirements.
A responsible person means anyone who:
• Is responsible for packaging products.
• Presents themselves as responsible by affixing their name, trade mark or other distinctive mark to the packaging.
• Reconditions packaging for reuse.
• Imports or manufactures packaging.
Anyone who breaches the Packaging Regulations is committing an offence. It is possible for a packaging manufacturer to be prosecuted for supplying packaging that does not comply with the Regulations, even if no action was taken against the wholesalers and retailers who supplied or sold their products.
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