Packaging Design Requirements
addition to the cost and environmental impact associated with packaging
waste, increased concern over consumer safety and protection has helped
shape design and labeling requirements in different countries. Many
countries have adopted regulations relating to misleading advertising of
products as "environmentally friendly," deceptive environmental
labeling, and proper material coding. As of February 2005, more than 30
countries have environmental packaging design requirements including
regulations on toxics in packaging, empty space and source reduction,
recycled content, environmental labeling, and packaging prevention planning.
The European Directive
The European Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste, first passed in
1994 and amended in 2004, has some of the most comprehensive requirements
focused on reducing packaging waste. In addition to providing the framework
and recovery and recycling goals for many of the producer responsibility
schemes discussed in the previous section, the Directive sets standards
known as the Essential Requirements (ERs). All companies who sell products
in European Union (EU) Member States must comply with below outlined EU
- Source Reduction: Companies must demonstrate that they have
reduced their packaging as much as possible and then identify the
critical area (such as product protection, safety, consumer acceptance,
etc.) which prevents further reduction in weight or volume of a
- Recovery Standards: Packaging components must be recoverable
by at least one of three recovery routes (energy, organic, or material
recovery) and must meet certain requirements specific to that recovery
- Reuse: Optional, but a package must meet the requirements of
the reuse standard if it is claimed as reusable.
- Heavy Metals Content: Sets a concentration limit for lead,
cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium in packaging (standards are
similar to those in effect in nineteen US states).
- Reduction of Hazardous Substances in Packaging: Substances
classified as noxious (e.g. zinc) must be minimized if they could be
released in emissions, ash, or leachate when packaging is land filled or
All packaging placed on the EU market must be in compliance with the
Essential Requirements. Products that are found not to comply may be removed
from the market. US companies must incorporate the ERs into their packaging
design systems and document how each standard was considered into its
packaging design protocol.
The assessment process to prove compliance with the ERs is similar to
ISO14000 requirements in that it establishes a framework for evaluating the
attributes of a packaging system (and identifying areas for improvement)
with respect to the requirements of the law. The European standards have
been developed to provide a common procedure for assessing and documenting
compliance. The amended directive requires that all EU member states enforce
the Ers by 2005.
Environmental Labeling Requirements
Environmental labeling requirements include recycling symbols, ecolabels,
material codes, licensed marks such as the Green Dot used to show
participation in a recovery scheme, and many others. These labels, of which
some are voluntary and others mandatory, provide information to the
consumer. Material coding is required for plastics in Austria, Taiwan, and
39 US States, and for all materials in eleven other nations. In certain EU
member states, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, there are also other
country-specific mandatory labels. Design mandates focus on areas such as
material restrictions, recycled content, empty space, and layers; specific
requirements vary by country.
Material Restrictions and Recycled Content
South Korea currently bans packaging press packed, coated or shrink-wrapped
in PVC and several countries are expected to charge more for PVC packaging
than other plastic material. Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is also on the
material watch list, and South Korea has forbidden its use in packaging of
toys, dolls, and composite products. Phase-out requirements apply to EPS in
the packaging of electrical, office IT, and audio-visual appliances.
the environment and human health. Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Japan have
restrictions on the use of phthalates (DEHP, DINP) in certain types of food
packaging, as well as toys and other child care products. In addition to
regulatory bans, many retailers around the globe (especially in Asia and
Europe) refuse to accept products packaged in polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
Some US states have established minimum recycled content standards for
plastic (CA, OR, WI), glass containers (CA, OR), plastic trash bags (CA),
and newspapers (27 states). France and Denmark both provide a fee reduction
for certain materials if the recycled content is greater than 50%.
Unfortunately, in countries without such discounts, the use of recycled
content may actually increase the weight or volume of a component, thus