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Risk-proof packaging

Innovation, Sustainability

The danger in transport is not only associated with the product. It is necessary to evaluate and certify the packaging of dangerous goods, a work done by the National Packaging Center and ISQ. 

Minimize risk

Dangerous goods are of central importance in the world economy, both for industrial activity and for issues relating to consumption in general. Therefore, these goods have and must circulate on public road.

However, in order for the movement of these products not to put people at risk, it is necessary to ensure that these goods are well protected inside the packaging.

It often happens that the risk lies not only in the dangerous materials themselves, but also in their transport. In order to ensure that the safety conditions are met, the characteristics not only of the product but also of the packaging, the closing system and the transport circuit to which it will be subject should be taken into account.

One of the key points is that packaging meets all the safety requirements stipulated by the European Agreement on the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR). This agreement provides for a series of tests depending on the hazard and type of packaging, explains Margarida Alves, head of the National Packaging Centre (CNE), one of the entities that, in Portugal, is responsible for carrying out tests for the transport of dangerous goods. In addition to the CNE, ISQ is also one of three entities in Portugal that have transport certification capacity, each working in different areas.

Test packaging risk

Depending on the type of packaging material, the CNE carries out chemical, mechanical or climatic tests, which allow to verify whether it meets the requirements to transport a particular product and consequently obtain the desired certification.

In addition to choosing the correct packaging for a particular commodity, the quantity to be transported is also a key data for the success of the transport. The consumer should know that each package has a specific purpose and a limit quantity and that failure to comply with these conditions may endanger safety.

“Even the transport of hazardous materials in reduced quantities can be dangerous. A large amount of small packages of a chemical substance can have the same effects as just a large package of the same substance. Here, one realizes the importance of packaging safety”, explains Margarida Alves.

“A 10 litre bottle of bleach, for example, has to be transported in a certified package. However, 10 litres can be carried in smaller capacity packages and, in this case, it is not necessary to use certified packaging. It is important that the citizen in general realizes the importance and danger of what he carries, even though the ADR is not applicable to him.” Although the legislation may not cover all situations, the danger may exist and there may be accidents with serious consequences, warns Margarida Alves.

To get the ideal packaging for a given product is therefore important to know the product to be packed, explains Pedro Caldeira, responsible for the CNE Certification Body.

Certify packaging

The choice of the entity that has the obligation to certify the packaging depends on the type of packaging. If it is a metallic packaging or a jerricã, it is the manufacturer that must apply for certification. But if it’s a bag, it’s the packer’s responsibility.

“It can be said that the responsibility is the one who makes the packaging,” says Pedro Caldeira. Since packaging may compromise transport safety, one should not only think about the hazard associated with the product, but the whole, packaging and product. What happens is that the packaging itself can affect the quality of the contentif the packaging material is not, for example, chemically compatible with it.

For example, a food packaging cannot contaminate the food. In addition, “packaging must resist the product,” says Pedro Caldeira, “because often the product can contribute to the deterioration of the packaging itself.” For all this set of risks, compliance with regulatory requirements must always be ensured and guaranteed by those who place the packaging on the market.

European rules: transport of dangerous goods

The safety requirements to be commenced for the carriage of dangerous goods are set out in the European Agreement on the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR). It is in this agreement that the criteria for applicability, classification, packaging, signalling and transport of dangerous goods are defined.

Dangerous goods are grouped according to the physical state and risk they entail, and in the ADR, each hazardous material is classified with a four-digit number according to the United Nations model regulations, the so-called “UN Number”. “Depending on the UN number and the type of packaging, the ADR provides for a series of tests assessing transport safety.

By Margarida Alves and Pedro Caldeira

With Ana Paula Pinheiro


Director at Centro Nacional de Embalagem - Technical Auditor at IPAC

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