Packaging fails to meet standards

Overpackaging is rife, despite new European standards for efficiency, according to trading standards officials enforcing the recently introduced regulations.

The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 1998 came into force at the start of the year, with the aim of minimising packaging by volume and weight in line with consumer acceptance and safety requirements.

Manufacturers and importers, and therefore packaging designers, were given from 31 May 1998 to comply, but a survey by Northern Counties Trading Standards Group has found most are failing to meet the standards.

Tests on 150 products found two-thirds had at least 50 per cent more packaging than required, 15 packs had twice the amount of material necessary, and only nine products were found to be packaged in a way that makes efficient use of resources.

Trading standards officers are issuing warnings and working with manufacturers to encourage them to comply, but they also have powers to take offenders to court.

“Manufacturers are playing on the first impression that a consumer gets from the packaging. This is regarded as an important factor in making a decision to purchase,” says NCTSG secretary Gordon Gresty. “However, while the packaging may be eye-catching, it may mislead consumers into thinking they are getting more for their money.”

Institute of Packaging chief executive John Webb-Jenkins, has defended the industry, saying it is in an uncertain position because the efficiency regula-tions are yet to be published in full by the SEN European standards authority.

“The industry very much wishes to and will comply,” he says. “It has been progressively minimising [packaging] for the past 20 years.”

The main requirements of the legislation are:

Packaging must be minimal, subject to safety, hygiene and acceptance by the consumer.

Poisons or hazardous substances in packaging must be minimised in emissions, ash or leachate from incineration or landfill.

Packaging must be recoverable through at least one of the following: material recycling; incineration with energy recovery; composting; or by being biodegradable.

Packaging may be reusable.

Specific content limits for heavy metals.

The IoP is taking the initiative, ahead of publication of the requirements, to organise a number of courses on the issue for designers, manufacturers and brand managers. Delegates will be invited to bring in their own packaging samples for assessment.

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