What Are UN-Approved Boxes (And Other FAQs Answered)

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post. If you are looking for packaging solutions, click here.

UN-approved boxes are packaging that meets the standards to safely transport dangerous goods by land (road and rail), sea, or air. These standards have been set by the United Nations to ensure that dangerous goods won’t be a threat to the transporters, recipients, and everyone else that’ll encounter them while in transit. So if you’re planning to ship dangerous goods like lithium-ion batteries or other hazardous chemicals and materials, keep reading.

Table of Contents

Last Updated on June 19, 2023 by Packoi Team

In this article, you’ll get the answers to basic questions about UN-approved packaging. You’ll also learn how to create the most efficient and effective packaging that’ll pass the standards of local and international authorities.

boxes for dangerous goods

What Does It Mean to Have UN-Approved Boxes?

When you have UN-approved packaging, that only means it passed all the mandatory tests specified in the United Nations Dangerous Goods Regulations.

It also means the manufacturer adheres to strict guidelines when creating the dangerous goods’ packaging. This involves the careful selection of materials, a carefully planned manufacturing process, and several testing systems – including one that’s done by an independent testing facility.

After the packaging has gone through all the tests, it’ll then be sent to the relevant approval authority. They will verify the tests conducted on the packaging design. Once it passes their scrutiny, the packaging will get approval and a UN Specification Mark.

Manufacturers can follow those packaging specifications to mass produce to transport hazardous goods.

What Is the Purpose of a UN-Certified Packaging?

 UN-Approved Boxes

The main purpose of the UN-approved package regulations is to ensure a safe and secure shipment specifically when it involves the transport of dangerous goods, chemicals, and materials.

By dangerous, this means anything that could pose a threat to the safety and health of people and animals – including property or the surrounding environment.

We all know that anything can happen when goods are being transported – whether that’s through land, sea, or air. A container ship can sink. A cargo plane can crash at sea. A train can get derailed and a delivery truck can get into an accident.

The role of all UN packaging is to ensure that despite these unforeseen and unexpected events, the dangerous contents won’t leak or be compromised.

How Are UN-Approved Boxes Different?

If you look at UN-approved boxes, you won’t notice a huge difference from the regular ones – except when you look at the markings outside of the box.

UN-approved mark

Although a typical shipping box goes through tests to ensure that it can protect its contents correctly, UN-approved packages go through the same – and then some.

First of all, UN-approved boxes should use materials with a higher specification. It should be robust and able to withstand extreme conditions while in transport. Even if it topples over or gets bumped around, it should be able to protect the contents without compromise.

Second, these have a visible UN Specification Mark that proves how they passed all the strict requirements of the Dangerous Goods Regulations. It goes through numerous tests from various testing companies before they are given this mark.

How to Identify an UN-Certified Packaging

4GV / UN certified packaging

It’s easy to identify UN-approved packaging. You just have to look for the special markings that prove it’s safe to be used to transport dangerous goods.

But to help you nail the difference with regular shipping boxes, here are the important things that you need to know.

Types of UN-Approved Packaging

There are 2 types of this packaging.

The first is the UN Combination Package. When you see a box with a UN combination packaging code, that means it’s only the outer packaging. There’s still an inner packaging to be found when the box is opened. It’s important that the inner packaging is assembled in the same way stated in the packing instructions.

UN Combination Package

The second is the UN Single Package. This means there’s only one packaging involved. When the box is opened, the dangerous goods are inside. That means this type of box is the only barrier against its hazardous contents.

UN-Approved Packaging Materials

There are several options when it comes to UN packaging materials. You have drums, bags, cans, and of course, boxes. You can use wood, steel, glass, fiberboard, aluminum, and plastic. Your choice will depend on what will best protect the dangerous materials that the packaging will carry.

You can combine materials to protect the goods better. For instance, the outer box can be made of wood and the inner packaging can be made of glass.

For single packaging, you can use drum-type containers that are sealed properly. These are good enough to keep leaks from happening.

The UN Specification Mark

The UN packaging code is the distinguishing mark that’ll prove that it’s no ordinary container. The UN packaging design includes a print of the specification mark that’s a combination of different numbers and letters.

The packaging code will always start with the UN logo – which is a “U” on top and an “N” at the bottom. The logo is designed to make the letters look like a mirror image of each other.

UN packaging code

The markings that follow the logo are arranged as follows:

  • The code for the packaging material used (e.g. Fiberboard is 4G)
  • The packing group and the maximum gross mass
  • The packaging type (solid or inner)
  • The year the packaging was manufactured
  • The State where the packaging was approved
  • The approval ID

This code is important because it confirms to everyone that the contents are hazardous. It also serves as the tracking code that’ll help shippers and receivers monitor where the package is.

There are other markings required by shipping companies so make sure you do your research. Most of them would require printed details of the sender on the box.

The Packing Groups for UN Marks

The packing group is one of the most important markings in the packaging. It states what type of dangerous materials are contained within it.

Here are the 3 groups that are usually added to the markings:

  • X refers to Packing Group I. It represents goods deemed a high danger.
  • Y refers to Packing Group II. It represents goods deemed a medium danger.
  • Z refers to Packing Group III. It represents goods deemed a low danger.

What Products Require UN-Approved Boxes?

Many classifications of dangerous goods require UN-approved packaging. They are grouped according to the level of danger that they pose to humans, animals, and property in case they leak.

The United Nations created 9 classifications for these hazardous goods. These are listed in any order.

hazardous goods
  1. Explosives
  2. Explosives Gases
  3. Flammable liquids
  4. Flammable solids
  5. Oxidizers and peroxides (organic)
  6. Toxic and infectious matter
  7. Radioactive materials
  8. Corrosive items
  9. Miscellaneous dangerous items

These have to be put in approved packaging otherwise, no reputable shipping company will take them anywhere.

But beyond the UN Specification marks, the packaging should also include packing instructions (including assembly and closing instructions), compatibility of the dangerous goods with the packaging material, and the mode of transport that the packaging will go through.

Important Reminders for UN-Certified Boxes

When you’re shipping dangerous goods, it’s a must to comply with the UN packaging regulations. It’s not just them that needs to be appeased. Local authorities will also have their regulations and they also require your compliance.

Transporting hazardous materials shouldn’t be taken lightly. Don’t expect that shipping companies will spoonfeed you with information about what you should do.

Do your research. Go through all the regulations that you can find. This will guide you in choosing the right materials that’ll help you comply and get the right packaging code for the goods you want to ship out.

Transporting hazardous goods

To determine the right packaging for the goods you want to ship, consider the journey that it will go through.

Will it be sent by air and then picked up at the airport to travel by road?

These will require you to meet the regulations of the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) and IATA (International Air Transport Association) plus the ADR(International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road).

Think about the whole journey so you can completely comply with the rules.

One of the ways to make compliance easier is by partnering with the right company. You need a packaging supplier with experience in providing UN-certified packaging.

Do You Need UN-Approved Boxes for Shipping? Packoi Printing Has Everything You Need to Comply.

Shipping our dangerous goods requires you to comply with a lot of regulations. But these are necessary to protect everyone handling your package.

UN-Approved boxes for shipping

Providing the right shipping box is your responsibility as the sender. It’s up to you to be knowledgeable of all the rules so you can adhere to them.

Admittedly, it can be confusing to know all these regulations.

If you don’t know where to start, get the help of a packaging expert. Packoi Printing has both experience and expertise in manufacturing shipping boxes for dangerous goods. We can help you create a UN-certified box to ship your goods.

Give us a call so we can talk about it. We’ll get back to you with a fair quote immediately.

custom shipping boxes

Request Free Quote Now!

Share The Post Now:


Hey there, I’m Shelly!

I really enjoy the packaging and printing industry because my work makes my clients’ products more beautiful and enjoyable. If you have any questions about packaging and printing, feel free to contact me!

You may also find these topics interesting

Send Your Inquiry Now

Get Free Sample Now!

Free standard sample can be provided for your evaluation according to your requirements.