Design packaging to reduce environmental impacts

Reduce the use of hazardous substances in packaging


When designing your packaging, there are four key types of hazardous substances your business must be aware of:

  • heavy metals - such as lead, cadmium, hexavalent chrome and mercury
  • industrial solvents in inks
  • coatings and adhesives
  • paper-bleaching chemicals

Hazardous substances are usually present in the pigments and other recycled materials that may be used in your manufacturing processes. If your business uses recycled material, you should be careful not to introduce heavy metals - such as lead in glass - during the recycling process.

You can design your packaging to minimise the use of hazardous substances by:

  • ensuring your packaging meets the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations limit of 100 parts per million for combined heavy metals
  • using paperboard that is unbleached or that only uses a totally chlorine-free or elemental chlorine-free bleaching process
  • using inks that have a low environmental impact - such as water-borne, ultraviolet curable and litho inks - instead of organic solvent-borne inks
  • considering water-based adhesives instead of solvent-based products
  • using the material safety data sheets that suppliers must provide
  • using information from the risk assessment you have to carry out under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations
  • using abridged life cycle assessment software tools - these should take into account the impacts of hazardous substances typically used in generic processes

PVC in packaging materials

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is associated with a number of environmental concerns, particularly the release of hazardous substances when it is produced and disposed of. Your business should make a commercial decision whether or not to use PVC packaging in light of the poor image that it has amongst some buyers.