When is a Package Too Big?
A great deal has been written recently in the press about packaging and how some believe it is excessive. But have you ever wondered how you can tell whether a package is in fact excessive? Toy packaging has been the most recent target of such comment. The first essential is to get the “problem into perspective. So how significant is toy packaging overall?
British households generate six million tons of packaging waste each year, according to official figures, of which 1.8 million is packaging for toys, appliances, computers, TVs and mobile phones. According to INCPEN figures In all, toy packaging accounts for around 5,000 tonnes per year – which equates to about 0.3% of all packaging used.
What are the regulations governing toy packaging?
Toy packaging, in common with packaging in general is governed by the so called ‘Essential Requirements’ of The EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive 94/62/EC. In the UK they are contained within The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003 No 194) as amended by the Packaging (Essential Requirements) (Amendment) Regulations, 2004 (SI 2004 No 1188) and the Packaging (Essential Requirements) (Amendment) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006 No 1492).
Guidance notes have been published by BERR and are available for download from the BEER website.
1. LACORS, referred to in this document is now known as ‘Local Government Regulation’, that links to the LACORS web site are now out of date and that LACORS documents referenced may no longer be available to the general public. The new web site address is http://www.lacors.gov.uk.
2. The INCPEN web site has been undergoing reorganisation and the links shown in this document are no longer valid. INCPEN documents are now available through the following link: http://www.incpen.org/pages/pv.asp?p=ipen10
Given that most recent comment regarding toy packaging has centred on the size of packaging then the most relevant of these Essential Requirements is the following:
“Packaging shall be so manufactured that the packaging volume and weight be limited to the minimum adequate amount to maintain the necessary level of safety, hygiene and acceptance for the packed product and for the consumer.”
How are these regulations interpreted?
CEN (the European Standards body) at the request of the EU Commission have published a series of standards linked to the Directive. One of these Standards, “EN 13428: Requirements specific to manufacturing and composition – Prevention by source reduction” addresses this issue of package size. It is available for purchase as a British Standard BS EN 13428 2004 http://shop.bsigroup.com/ProductDetail/?pid=000000000030023940.
There is also a publication available to all from INCPEN entitled “Common Understandings & Common Sense”, http://www.packagingfedn.co.uk/images/fact%20sheets/lacors.pdf but note that the LACORS reference included is no longer valid. There is a further report available to INCPEN members only entitled “Guidance on Packaging Essential Requirements Regulations INCPEN/LACORS, 1999)”.
Where required the labelling on the packaging must comply with the Toy (Safety) Regulations 1995 and any other relevant toy regulations.
How are the regulations enforced?
In England, Scotland and Wales the regulations are enforced by the trading standards departments of local authorities, but in Northern Ireland by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
Thus far there have been very few enforcement actions taken and none have thus far lead to prosecution. There are however indications that enforcement may be more rigorous in future. A summary of the legal position has been published by the Yorkshire law firm Gordons LLP http://www.thebusinessdesk.com/mobile/yorkshire/news/78014-gordons-beware-increased-trading-standards-packaging-law-enforcement.html.
What governs the size of packaging?
Clearly the pack must be large enough to contain the toy and any associated materials such as usage instructions but beyond that:
• There must be sufficient space to allow the product to be inserted and removed easily and without damage
• There must be allowance for any padding or retaining materials that prevent the product being damaged by shock, impact or vibration
• The display area on the exterior of the pack must be large enough to allow customers to identify the product on the shelf, understand the nature of the product, its compatibility with other units and its suitability for the person who will use it. There must also be space for legally required information.
• The pack must be designed to help prevent pilfering (an important contributor to shrinkage
• In the retail environment the pack must handle and display well and be attractive to the customer
• In the home it must continue to carry out its function for as long as necessary, that may include acting as a means of storage for the product if appropriate
What is shrinkage?
The Global Retail Theft Barometer, compiled by the Centre for Retail Research for Checkpoint Systems, shows that UK retailers lost £3.8 billion to theft by customers. Shrinkage amounts to 1.3 per cent of retailers’ turnover. The survey found that 43 per cent of losses were from customers, with theft by employees accounting for 35 per cent.
DISCLAIMER: This article does not constitute and is not intended to constitute legal advice or advice to follow any particular course of action. PEC Partnership Ltd. does not accept any liability for the content of this article and it does not constitute advice to follow any course of action. Any person wishing to produce or design packaging to comply with existing legislation is advised to seek professional advice.