New packaging standard
The Global Standard for Packaging and Packaging Materials now includes non-food packaging, announced the British Retail Consortium (BRC) at the standard's launch on 17 December 2007.
Due to be implemented by 1 July 2008, the standard developed by the BRC and IOP: The Packaging Society in conjunction with trade associations representing paper and board, plastic, aluminium, steel, and glass packaging.
The third issue of the document enables manufacturers of all types of packaging and packaging materials to define the nature of their product and identify the applicable risks according to three categories:
• Packaging that comes into direct contact with high-risk products that are consumed, applied to the skin or intended for infants.
• Packaging that does not come into direct contact with high-risk products.
• Packaging for products of low-risk with regards to standards of hygiene but which must clearly meet defined functional requirements.
Each category comes with its own set of specifications, covering hazard and risk management, technical management, site standards, product and process control, and personnel.
The benefit of adopting the standard is that it ensures integrity of the supply chain, explains Terry Robins, who sits on the technical advisory board that created the document and is a Fellow of IOP: The Packaging Society. He says, ‘Most companies are now audited less. Before, manufacturers would have been audited by all retailers separately. Now, they are audited once a year by a certification body to BRC standard, and the retailer can get a hold of the report.
‘So you have a system where a company in the UK and [abroad] has been audited to the same standard by the same quality of trained people.’ So far, over 1,000 companies have been accredited in over 20 countries.
Robins adds, ‘In a court of law, you can then say you have conducted hazard analysis to the best of your ability. It’s the defence of due diligence.’
He argues that, despite some suggestions to the contrary, the standard applies successfully to all materials. He acknowledges that some processes are more applicable to certain materials, but says there are clauses built in to account for that.
As for environmental concerns, Robins envisages that future versions of the standard will address areas such as energy efficiency. ‘It was discussed this time, but it was felt that the certification bodies do not have the knowledge yet to audit against it effectively. [As for] recycling targets, they are moving targets outlined by the Government. The standard cannot cover all legal requirements.’
Training courses on the standard are offered by the BRC.