IP News Monthly Issue 2


IP News

Setting Standards

Setting Standards

By Lonnie Jaycox

Users and manufacturers of industrial packagings are aware of the bewildering and complex cross-jurisdictional regulations associated with the manufacture of and the selection and use of these packagings. The length of the global business supply chain, and layers of distribution compound this problem by often shielding the party that selects the packaging and makes the product from knowing when their product may be distributed in another country under the authority of an unknown regulator.  This may “appear” as a request for a regulatory position statement for compliance with a regulation that was not part of the regulatory review contemplated in the initial distribution map.

A new request for a regulatory position statement for a country can also result from a revision in the regulatory scheme in that country that affects downstream customers first; and outside the notice of the product/packaging manufacturer.  This can come as a surprise to a manufacturer, if the affected regulatory program is customer demand driven, as is often the case.

An example of such changes in a major market food packaging regulation have recently gone into effect, and will trigger customer requests for regulatory compliance statements due extensive changes in the regulations that include additional requirements for both industrial packaging manufacturers and users.

China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) recently published an extensive revision of their Food Contact Packaging Standards. These are called, in English, “GB” [Guo bio] standards.  The structure of the Chinese GB regulations is familiar to those who have worked with the EU regulatory structure.  The system consists of a framework “General Safety” standard [GB4806.1-2016]; a GMP standard [GB31603-2015]; an Additive Positive List [GB9685-2016]; Migration Test Standards [GB31604.1-2015 General Principles and GB5009.156-2016 Sample Preparation and Pre-treatment]; and a set of Food Contact Materials Standards [See below] listed under the GB4806.1 General Safety Standard.

April 19, 2017 was the effective date of revised packaging material standards under GB4806-2016.  This revision was largely, but not completely, a consolidation and re-organization of the previous standards into the new structure.  These revised packaging materials standards, listed below are still an incomplete set of standards for packaging materials:


Standard Number

Food contact material/article application:

GB 4806.3-2016

Enameled Articles

GB 4806.6-2016

Plastic Resins

GB 4806.7-2016

Plastic Materials and Articles

GB 4806.8-2016

Paper, Paperboard and Paper Articles

GB 4806.9-2016

Metal Materials and Articles

GB 4806.10-2016

Coatings and Coating Layers

GB 4806.11-2016

Food-Contact Use Rubber Materials and Articles


Additional standards for other materials are “in preparation” at last report.  These would include: lubricants, printing inks, textile products, Bamboo and wood products, and multi-layer structures.  

October 19, 2017 is the effective implementation date for a major modification of the framework standards for food contact packaging in China: 

  • GB9685-2016; Standard on the Uses of Additives in Food-Contact Materials and Articles
  • GB4806.1-2016; Standard on General Safety Requirements for Food-Contact Materials and Articles

Following are some of the important changes in these two standards that will have effects in the compliance programs for industrial packaging manufacturers and users:


Mandates “Basic Requirements”

“No migration” of packaging substances that creates a health problem.

Inclusion of a definition of, and a requirement in the safety assessment of “Non-Intentionally Added Substances” [NIAS] for food packaging materials.

Mandates a most restrictive use model for multi-material, physical combinations in materials or articles; where one component has more restrictive limitations.  The most restrictive use of any component applies to the entire mixture or article.

Updated [and quite expanded] “Additive Positive Lists” in applicable appendices.


  • GB9685 now organized with Appendices of Positive Additive Lists 
  • Additions to GB9685; Appendix A, Table A.1 Plastic Materials and Articles, will be widely applicable.
  • Allows for permissible use of certain approved direct food ingredients in food contact materials and articles.

Product Information and Labeling:

Requirement for “Declaration of Compliance” [DoC]

The standard now incorporates a requirement for vendors to supply downstream users of food packaging materials with a EU type Declaration of Compliance.  This will likely arise in the form of a request from users of industrial packagings.  The internal program/evaluation that produces these DoC, should it be decided to offer one, must be structured to produce the statement in accordance with specific applicable regulations.  Positive Listings in the Appendices of GB9685 would not be sufficient to warrant blanket statements of compliance.  Proceed with caution!

The requirement for a DoC is part of the adoption of a larger and more comprehensive Product Information and Labeling scheme.  All the required elements of the scheme must be incorporated into the program.  This may necessitate a more robust customer notification system than is currently employed.    

Adoption of the concept of a “Functional Barrier”

  • The standard now incorporates the capability to use some “non-cleared” substances in food contact articles/packaging, provided the prescribed requirements for establishing a “functional barrier” are met.
  • Of course, this is a fraught process and should only be undertaken with great care.

Additional notes:

While GB31603, the “GMP” of the China Food Safety Standards, is in many ways similar to the EU standard [EC 2023-2006]; it has more specific requirements that echo the Global Food Safety Initiative [GFSI] certified food safety standards as embodied in their “Prerequisite Programs” for food packaging.  This does include requirements for a traceability and recall/withdrawal system. 

For companies certified under a GFSI scheme, a regulatory review procedure must be in place to track applicable changes in regulations for whatever market into which a product is offered.  

Customers often request “blanket” statements of conformance that may not be appropriate for a specific vendor to make.  Understand your place in the regulatory ecosystem and make statements appropriate for your products and markets.   

It is important that industrial packaging manufacturers and users understand the requirements of the any applicable regulations for their packaging types and markets.  It often comes as a surprise that a package is being used as a food contact article in a manner, or under a regulatory regime, that was unknown in the original packaging selection process.  This can trigger very fervent requests from downstream parties when the need is made manifest.  Careful planning and review is the best antidote to making uninformed statements in these circumstances.



The IP News Interview

Paul W. Rankin

Interview of Paul W. Rankin for Industrial Packaging News Monthly

Paul Rankin has been President of the Reusable Industrial Packaging Association for over 26 years.  Prior to joining RIPA, he served as President of the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council; was Regulatory Affairs Directory of the National Association of Recycling Industries and the State Government Affairs Manager for the National Solid Waste Management Association.  He currently Chairs the International Confederation of Container Reconditioners and the Interested Parties for Hazardous Materials Transportation.

What are the main challenges facing the reusable industrial packaging sector today?
The reusable industrial packaging industry is global in scope, and composed of many hundreds if not thousands of companies doing business in varying economic environments. 
It is, therefore, difficult to make sweeping statements about challenges the industry faces, but I will, nonetheless, give it a go. 


Consolidation is perhaps the most obvious issue facing reconditioners in many parts of the world.  Until fairly recently, most reconditioners were family-owned enterprises with one or two locations.  Today, several companies are actively buying or creating partnerships with reconditioning businesses all over the world.  It is difficult to predict how consolidation will impact the business of reconditioning over the long-term, but I expect this activity will continue apace for the foreseeable future. 


Another major challenge is educating packaging users about the benefits of ordering packagings that are robust and capable of being reused many times.  Anyone familiar with the tenets of the Circular Economy movement knows that reuse is by far the most preferable option for the management of used packagings.  For example, a recent study by Ernst & Young found that reusing an average open head 55-gallon (210 liter) steel drum reduces carbon emissions by about 60% when compared to the single use option.


How will these matters evolve over time?

With regard to industry consolidation, as I mentioned earlier, I believe we are looking at a process that, while certainly no longer in its early stages, is likely to continue for quite some time.  The companies at the forefront of the consolidation effort are multi-national in scope and are focused on providing both national and global reuse solutions to their customers.  I think it is important to say that there is now and will continue to be plenty of room in the global marketplace for smaller, nimble reconditioning companies.  Reconditioners are highly entrepreneurial and they always find a way to both survive and thrive, no matter the business challenges they face.


With respect to environmental issues, I believe that ever greater numbers of companies all over the world are beginning to understand and appreciate the benefits associated with industrial packaging reuse, as opposed to sending once-used packaging to the scrap yard.  Reuse far and away the most environmentally sound practice for nearly all industrial packagings. 


Today, nearly every major corporation is working to improve its environmental profile.  As part of this process, many firms are taking a close look at their industrial packaging options.  I predict that as this process continues, and companies begin to assess carefully the air, water and carbon savings associated with packaging reuse, they will begin to purchase more packagings that have long lifetimes and also purchase more reconditioned packagings. 


How is RIPA responding to these trends?

A couple of years ago, RIPA commissioned a study by Ernst & Young comparing the carbon emission (CO2e) impacts of a new industrial packaging and a reconditioned packaging of similar technical specifications.  The results were nothing short of astounding.  As I noted above, the use of reconditioned open head steel drums cut emissions by about 60% over a similar new drum; and, a reconditioned composite IBC saves about 65% of carbon emissions over a similar new IBC.  RIPA is working hard to get these facts in front of corporate environmental officers and purchasing managers all over the world.


In addition, we are developing a new program designed to inform container emptiers of their environmental and legal responsibilities with respect to the disposition of emptied packagings that previously contained hazardous materials.  We are aware that some companies send such containers to scrap yards, which is not only an environmentally unsound practice, but one that could expose the company to Superfund liabilities or other legal claims.


What innovations are coming into the reconditioning business?

One of the most exciting technologies we have seen in recent years is the development of new, highly efficient ultrasonic leakproofness testing machinery.  This technology appears to represent an improvement in efficiency over traditional leakproofness testing processes, the use of which both saves money for reconditioners and reduces to essentially zero the number of containers that exhibit problems in transportation.  Several manufacturers and reconditioners have been authorized by DOT to use this technology, and the results are wonderful.


We are also seeing more efficient IBC cleaning machinery coming on-line all the time.  Although such technologies are not sexy, they are more efficient and ensure that reconditioned IBCs look fantastic at the time of sale.


Lastly, we have seen several reconditioners deploy industrial robots on their processing lines.  These robots perform relatively mundane tasks, like turning over an IBC on a cleaning line, but they are great labor-saving devices and eliminate injuries.  I predict more of these robots will be used by reconditioners in the coming years.


To what extent is the reconditioning industry embracing a global approach to the business?
The reconditioning industry has had a global focus since the late 1960’s when the International Confederation of Container Reconditioners (ICCR) was formed.  ICCR had its first international conference in Kyoto, Japan in 1970 and an international meeting has been held somewhere in the world every three-years since that time.  The ICCR Board of Directors is composed of representatives from three association’s representing reconditioning companies in Japan, Europe and North America.  Recently, we accepted a new member from China, and we are actively working with firms in India and elsewhere.  

The fact is that empty industrial packagings are a global currency, and companies that empty drums and IBCs all over the world are pleased to know that a local reconditioner will take the emptied packaging and deal with it in a safe and environmentally beneficial manner.  So, even though the industry is consolidating, the demand for reconditioning and reuse services is expanding.  I like to say that reconditioners were the original environmentalists.




Our sincere thanks to Paul for taking part in the IP Interview