“UN packaging” refers to packaging that adheres to standards set by the United Nations to govern the methods by which dangerous materials can be safely transported throughout the world. Most countries conform to these regulations. Other terms may also be used to reference packages adhering to this standard, such as “dangerous goods packaging,” “hazmat packaging,” or “UN-approved” or “UN-certified packaging.” These critical guidelines ensure that materials are packaged and shipped according to all necessary safety and efficiency standards.
UN guidelines are met through a series of tests performed by a third party at an accredited facility and according to the accepted relevant standards, such as ISO 16104:2003 and ASTM D4919 – 03(2008). The UN regulation also requires a similar standard accreditation at the manufacturing facility.
UN Packaging Markings
Packaging that successfully passes these tests is then issued a report and its own UN approval mark, which can be applied for future use as long as the contents of the packaging fit within the parameters of the original testing.
These packaging markings are comprised of a series of digits that indicate the type of container, its material of construction, the package category within its type, the density of the material, the country in which the container was manufactured, and other details. Each category is identified with a letter or number. For example, if steel were the material of construction, then an “A” would be used to indicate that.
A sample list of UN markings can be found here.
UN Packaging Testing
Most plastic bottle caps and lids are made from polypropylene plastic (#5) and can be recycled along with the bottles. These recycled caps can then eventually be made into various products, including storage bins, car parts, and shipping pallets. Because the caps melt at different temperatures than the bottles (which are usually made of plastic #1 or #2), consumers used to be asked to remove the caps before recycling; but processes have advanced over the years, and now caps can be included with regular recycling. Again, different municipalities have different regulations, so be sure to check for specific guidelines if you’re unsure.
The drop test is performed to test overall packaging design. During this test, containers are dropped to test durability and integrity. The drop test is performed using flat drops, in which the center of gravity is directly over the point of impact. When there are other orientations possible besides flat drops, testing is done using the orientation most likely to result in packaging failure.
The concept of this test is pretty self-explanatory. The container, whether it’s intended to hold solids or liquids, is stacked with other packages of similar dimensions at a height of no less than 3 m (10 ft), including the package under review. The test is performed for no fewer than 28 days in temperatures above 40 °C (104 °F).
This test makes use of compressed air or applicable gases to test packaging intended for liquids. The procedure requires the packaging to be submerged under water, with internal pressure applied to gauge whether it leaks or is prone to leaking due to manufacturing issues such as pinholes. Depending on the specific packaging, the duration of the submersion will be at least five minutes, performed at varying pressures.
Hydrostatic Pressure Test/Vacuum Test
Also for liquid packaging, this test ensures that no leaks can occur due to buildup of vapor pressure. Like the leakproof test, the hydrostatic pressure/vacuum test is performed at various pressures and temperatures, since evaporating chemicals will inevitably apply different amounts of pressure from within the packaging, and temperature will always be a critical factor. Testing lasts for at least 30 minutes, with the test pressure kept constant, continuous, and even throughout. Pressure is recorded with a hydraulic pressure gauge at the top of the receptacle.
Across industries, there is an ongoing need for products that can safely and reliably store hazardous materials. One such product is the CUBITAINER® from the Hedwin Division of Zacros America. When assembled into a carton, CUBE® is a UN-marked combination package, ideal for liquid, viscous, and granular materials. It falls under the variation packaging category (V packaging), which means it provides excellent versatility for a wide range of applications. CUBITAINER® is lightweight, recyclable, collapsible, and stackable, making it one of the easiest packaging materials to fill and evacuate.