GUIDE: How to pack a UN certified box

One of the eco-friendly containers we supply for the compliant storage and transport of dangerous goods is the humble cardboard box. But these are not just any old cardboard boxes: they are UN certified boxes, suitable for packing hazardous materials. And unlike on Santa’s production line, you have to follow certain box-packing procedures for the UN certification to be valid. Here’s the lowdown.

Santa packing boxes

These dangerous goods boxes are much more heavy-duty than a standard cardboard box and they have passed the same tests as drums, to achieve the UN certification.

5 cardboard boxes for transporting dangerous good in different sizes

What tests do these cardboard boxes pass to achieve UN certification?

The UN Packaging certification process involves tests of the performance and integrity of the packaging.  Packaging is tested in the “as for shipment” condition, and tests include: drop test, stacking test, leakproof test, hydrostatic pressure/vacuum test, vibration test, cobb water absorption test and ISTA test.

Testing is carried out at an accredited third-party lab and is known as “type approval” or “design type testing”.  A package that passes the tests is issued with a test report and a unique UN approval mark, which can be applied to packaging that conforms to the same specifications as the tested type.

What are the advantages of UN approved cardboard boxes?

  • Firstly, cardboard boxes are light and easy to use. Just ask Santa – his team manages to pack the presents of the world in just a few months using them 😉
  • Secondly, they are versatile – usable for many different product types. Indeed, while you may think boxes are only for solids, in fact liquids can be safely packed in these boxes, too, within an inner packaging.
  • They are a relatively cheap packaging option, which remains robust and UN certified. As they are flat-packed, transport costs are also low.
  • Being cardboard packaging, they are made of paper, which is the most sustainable base product we work with. It produces much less carbon dioxide and uses much less water in its production than alternative materials. And paper has long been the most recycled product in Europe.

flatpacked boxes

What conditions need to be met for the UN certification to be valid?

A major benefit of this packaging option is that they are flat-pack boxes, so delivery costs a lot less than other containers, and you can order in bulk and store them more easily.

But flat-pack (rather than ready-to-use) delivery does leave you responsible for ensuring several conditions are met during the packing process, to maintain safety of use for dangerous goods:

  • You’ll need to make the boxes up using specialised tape and insert a specific liner, which we provide with the boxes.
  • You’ll need to ensure that there is a minimum distance between the inner packaging and the inside of outer packaging (that is, the bottom and the top and the sides of the box). In this space between the inner packaging and the box, you will pack a specific filler material called vermiculite which we also provide with the boxes. This special filler not only maintains the minimum safe distance, but also absorbs shock and liquid.
  • You will need to ensure that you correctly use a box labelled either “4G” or “4GV”, depending on the type of inner packaging you are using. Both markings legally certify that the entire package, not just the cardboard box, meet all of the UN’s specifications for the transport of dangerous goods. But 4GV boxes can be packed with any inner packaging suitable for dangerous goods, whereas 4G boxes may only be packed with the type of inner packaging specified by the instructions for use.
  • You must also use the right type of box for the contents. This is shown by a code on the box, with a letter designating the packing group (X, Y or Z for groups I, II or III).
  • You are responsible for ensuring that the gross weight of any inner packaging and the whole box does not exceed the maximum stated in the UN code.
  • If any further labels or marks are required to ship the type of dangerous goods you are packing, don’t forget to add these to the box once packed!

More information about UN-certified boxes

Find all sizes available in stock on the UN Certified Boxes product page. You’ll find 4GV, 4G and corrugated boxes of various dimensions there.

If you need a different size, branded boxes or indeed a specific solution developed for your products, just ask.

Want to discuss a possible switch to cardboard boxes with a qualified Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor? We have one on hand. Find out more in this article about the role of a Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor.

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