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UN Certified Packaging Requirements Guide

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Published date: 25 March 2022

If you’re shipping hazardous goods, you’ll need to use UN approved packaging.  In this guide, you will learn:
What is UN approved packaging?
UN packaging requirements: how to read UN packaging markings
4G boxes vs. 4GV boxes: what’s the difference?
How to buy UN boxes and UN approved packaging online

UN packaging requirements; UN certified boxes for carrying and transporting dangerous goods

What is UN approved packaging?

UN approved packaging is packaging used for the transport of dangerous materials.

Failure to transport hazardous materials can result in harm to people, property, animals and the environment. Because of this, items like chemicals, pesticides and infectious, flammable or toxic substances must legally be carried in UN approved packaging while in transit. 

UN certified packaging has been specifically and rigorously tested for stability, durability and water absorption to ensure the safe transport of such goods, preventing the risk of the consequences exposure to such substances can have on people, animals, homes and nature.

UN packaging includes UN certified liners for packaging small items together and UN boxes for larger goods.

UN packaging requirements: how to read UN packaging markings

Each UN certified package has on it a UN marking. This is a string of code indicating:

 •  What the package carries

 •  Materials the package is made from

 •  Maximum gross mass or specific gravity

 •  Year of manufacture

 •  Location of manufacture


Here is a sample UN marking: 

UN box guide indicating a UN marking reflective of UN certified packaging requirements

 In the following sections, we’ll break down what each element of the marking means.

Elements of UN Packaging Codes

UN Symbol

The symbol at the start of the marking is the United Nations Coding System logo indicating this is a UN marking.

Section 1) Type and material of UN container

The initial section of the sequence indicates the type and material of the UN container in accordance with the coding system below:

Type of ContainerMaterial of Container Category within Type of Container  
1 - Drums/Pails A - Steel 1 - Closedhead (lid cannot be removed) 
2 - Reserved, formerly barrels  B - Aluminium2 - Openhead (removable lid)
3 - JerricansC - Natural Wood 
4 - BoxesD - Plywood 
5 - Bags F - Reconstituted Wood 
6 - Composite PackagingG - Fibre 
7 - Reserved, formerly Pressure Receptacle H - Plastic 
 M - Paper 
 N - Metal 
 P - Glass 
EXAMPLE: 4D2 = Openhead plywood box

Section 2) Packaging group and density

UN packaging can be tested for the following packaging groups which are used to identify the hazard level of the material:
•  Packaging Group I: High hazard level
•  Packaging Group II: Medium hazard level
•  Packaging Group III: Low hazard level

The letter in the second part of the marking sequence indicates the packaging groups the container has been tested for, which will be one of the following:

X: Packaging Groups I, II and III
Y: Packaging Groups II and III
Z: Packaging Group III

As you can see, all UN certified containers are tested for packaging group III as a minimum, but only some then go on to be tested for packaging groups II and I.

The number following the packaging group letter indicates either:
•  The maximum density or specific gravity of the material that can be packed, or;
•  The maximum gross mass of any solid material than can be packed (in kilograms).

EXAMPLE: Y1.8 = Medium hazard level, 1.8 density maximum


Section 3) Hydraulic pressure or gross mass

The next segment of the marking indicated hydraulic pressure, a.k.a. vapour pressure. This is measured in kilo-Pascals (kPa).

Alternatively, if the packaging is intended for solids, the next segment will indicate this with an ‘S’ followed by the gross mass.

EXAMPLE: 100 = 100 kPa


Section 4) Year of production

This section simply indicates the year the container was made, tested and UN certified.

EXAMPLE: 2022 = Year 2022


Section 5) Country of production

Next, you’ll see the country code for the country in which the packaging was produced.

If you don’t know the country code, you can find it out here.

EXAMPLE: GB = Great Britain


Section 6) Certification mark/manufacturing plant code

Each manufacturing plant has a unique code, which is indicated here to identify exactly where the UN packaging was created and tested.


UN certified packaging requirements; UN certified boxes containing a flammable gas are stacked on top of one another

4G boxes vs. 4GV boxes: what’s the difference?

What is a 4G box?

You will know from section ‘Section 1) Type and material of UN container’ that a 4G at the start of a UN code indicates a fibre box, i.e. it is a UN tested and approved corrugated box. 

What is a 4GV box?

The letter ‘V’ in a UN certification code stands for ‘variation’. This packaging differs from its 4G counterpart in that the inner components may vary as long as UN absorbency rules are still abided by. 

UN testing is more thorough with 4GV boxes to ensure their competency handling a wider range of cargo and circumstances. As a result, they are suitable for a wide variety of inner containers, including glass, metal and plastic.

Dangerous goods being shipped representing the hazards of cargo safely contained within a 4G box or 4GV packaging.

Should I get 4G or 4GV boxes?

4GV packaging is most suitable when you have a wide variety of inner containers and want one packaging type for all of them. 

Meanwhile, 4G boxes are tailor-made and tested for a specific type of inner container. Therefore, if you’re using just one container type, 4G packaging will be most suitable for your needs.

If you end up wanting to ship an item outside of 4G packaging specifications but you only have 4G boxes at hand, you can always add a UN liner bag and/or absorbent to meet UN regulations.

Buy UN boxes and UN approved packaging online to meet UN certified packaging requirements

Challenge Packaging stocks UN approved boxes and UN certified liners suitable for the holding and transport of a range of goods. Shop today to order UN certified boxes and UN packaging to your door.



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