Regulations on packaging to guarantee packing quality, its sustainability and safety


CATEGORY: Sustainability and environment BRAND: Repaq

Montse Castillo, director of RepaQ, introduces us to an area of knowledge with a practical application as broad as it is necessary within the packaging industry: the regulatory framework that your packaging must take into account.

The packaging fulfils multiple functions apart from being a functional product container. Even as a product container, it must comply with rules to guarantee safety levels set out by the European Union and which Spain transposes into its legal framework.

As a starting point, and in light of the need to focus the issue due to its complexity, features of each sector and the nature of the packaging, we take European Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC as basis, which applies to any existing packaging in the European market and all waste related to the same, both if they are used or subsequently disposed of. The aim of this directive, which is mandatory for the sector, is to limit the production of waste from packaging and to promote recycling, reuse and other forms of recovering this waste, considering its disposal as a last resort. The packaging waste must be minimised and managed correctly, and this directive opens the door for each Member State to manage this waste in a specific way so as to assume determined levels of recycling, recovery and reuse.


Packaging and sustainability

RepaQ Packaging Consulting was founded in 2009 by Montse Castillo with the aim of offering consultancy services to the market based on her experience in the world of materials and packaging processes. One of the services that they offer is in consultancy in the field of legislation and regulation applicable to packaging and packing. Castillo indicates as a starting point, when addressing packaging regulations, the measures put forward by the European Union on the management of packagings and packaging waste to guarantee a high level of environmental protection. In this regard, the director of Repaq explains that a proposal has been made for the revision and modification of directive 94/62 with the aim of aligning it with the measures of a circular economy that the EU is advocating. “With this revision and the new measures that arise from this update, there will be significant changes. Our challenge is to fulfil the set of measures because in 2030 the objective of the EU is for all packaging to be 100% reciclables”, says the expert.



Both sectors and special cases

Apart from the regulations that apply to all sectors and types of packaging, which take into account the impact that this packaging has on the environment, the sector in which the packaging is manufactured and marketed must be considered to therefore asses which sector rules they affect.

The food sector is one of the most regulated with different directives, which must be incorporated by national parliaments to be implemented, and regulations, which directly apply to the Member States. On a community level, the materials that come into contact with the food are generally regulated by Regulation EC 1935/2004. This Regulation includes all materials in contact with food. Castillo summarises its content as: "the materials that come into contact with food must not transfer components to food on levels which pose a risk to human health".


In terms of materials there are also specific regulations, plastic being one of the most regulated, given the possibility of substances migrating from the packaging to the food. This regulation is listed in Regulation EU 10/2011 and contains an approved list of monomers and additives that can be used in plastic materials in contact with food. Migration, especially in the food sector, is only regulated on a European level in plastic materials.


For active and intelligent packaging, the EU has also established a regulation from which this type of packaging can only be exempt in food substances that are catalogued as additives or food flavourings.

There are many rulings on food labelling but they do not make reference to the packaging, only to the information that appears on the label, which is given to the consumer. On a European level, the objective is to clearly inform the consumer of what the packaging contains and different studies highlight the importance of a legible label for consumers, even if the information contained by some food labels are not clear enough for many consumers. As mandatory elements they must show the name of the food, the ingredients and allergens, net quantity, expiry date and nutritional information. The country of origin must also be stated on the label in special cases such as fruit, vegetables, olive oil and fresh beef, pork, lamb, goat and poultry and as long as they are required for the product which they contain.

There are very strict regulations regarding packaging in the pharmaceutical sector. In this sector, Castillo explains that the European Medicines Agency regulates and the Pharmacopoeia of each country details which type of material to use and all technical issues to take into account on pharmaceutical packaging. The labels regulated by pharmacopoeias are also very restrictive.

In terms of traceability, it is a requirement for all food and pharmaceutical packaging and is regulated by a series of sector provisions highlighting the needs to implement serialisation systems in the pharmaceutical industry before February 2019, meeting the requirements of European Directive 2011/62/EU.


If we compare the cosmetic sector with those mentioned previously, the regulation applying to packaging is much less developed, although in some cases the requirements of the customer can become much more rigorous. However, the chemical sector is also characterised by having strict regulations. In 2009 the CLP (Classification Labelling Products) regulation was implemented due to the need to incorporate into community legislation the criteria of the Global Harmonized System (GHS) of the United Nations on the classification and labelling and packaging of chemicals to achieve an international harmonisation. The packaging of these substances, therefore, includes indications and pictograms on the labels and safety data sheets to inform of the dangers of the chemical products.


Synopsis of the legislation on food contact. Image provided by Repaq


Beyond the standard

Castillo considers that there is still a long way to go to providing the packaging industry with a regulatory framework that considers the majority of cases, materials and situations. For the expert, "there are legal loopholes that we must continue to work on in order to get more and more packages and materials to accept the laws and regulations developed by the EU and by Member States, as when something is not regulated it is more difficult for the consumer to feel safe".


For example, inks and adhesives are not regulated even though there are national provisions such as in the case of Switzerland, where the country has developed a series of provisions on inks and paper. In these cases, these are the same associations that try to normalise the situation, from the references that they have, that are being done in a certain country. If there is no regulation on a European level, the manufacturer's associations recommend following guidelines. In this regard, the reference on inks is Switzerland while on paper and cardboard it is Germany. In Spain, Royal Decree 847/2011 regulates a series of polymeric materials such as adhesives, rubber, ion-exchange resins, silicones, waxes and varnishes and coatings, not included in the European regulation on plastic materials.

The regulation on packaging presents areas and cases which still need to be addressed on a European level in aiming to unify criteria and good practices. Hispack will be the platform on which some of these questions will be shared and which will address a future with greater regulation. The bases are already established and the initiative of the European Commission, with laws such as the one announced several months ago under which by 2030 all plastic packaging will be recyclable, points to a challenge that is welcomed by the sector. Because a greater and more specific regulation on packaging will have a positive result for the entire sector and the packaging and packing industry.


Source: Hispack 2018

Cristina Benavides, Hispack collaborator


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