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Green package for a new stage of sustainable development
China Standardization 2022-02-09

With the rapid development of China's packaging industry, package production plays an increasingly important role in boosting national economy and catering to people's mental and material demands. As an independent industrial system, packaging industry has become a significant part of China's manufacturing system, ranking the 14th in the 38 national main industrial categories. Packages used to be called the impetus for economic development. Serving as carriers of products, it undoubtedly boosts economy, especially in the current scenario of economic globalization.

However, as economy develops, environmental problems emerge due to growing consumption of various resources. Packaging is regarded as the source of wastes, not only for its consumption of resources, but also for its damages to the environment by careless littering. This has become an enormous problem for human sustainable development. To realize the coordinated development of packaging and environment, how to exert the role of standardization on packaging and environment has become a big task concerning global ecology.

Initial standards system on packaging and environment

Over the past decades, the European Union (EU) has been leading the world in the field of standardization on packaging and environment. In order to protect natural resources and environment, EU published the Directive 94/62/EC of European Parliament and Council on Packaging and Packaging Waste and six coordinated standards to regulate the national policies for managing packaging and packaging waste. These standards are designed to reduce effects and damages to the environment and avoid trade barriers and unfair competition.

Starting with the conversion of EU standards, the first national standard on packaging waste, GB/T 16716-1996, General rules of packaging waste disposal and utilization, was developed in China in 1996. After that, the standardization system on packaging and environment was gradually completed, with the publication of the Prevention and Control of Solid Waste Pollution Law, Clean Production Promotion Law and Circular Economy Promotion Law.

Based on EU's standards system on packaging and packaging waste, a bunch of national standards were developed in China from 2008 to 2012. The main standards include GB/T 16716.1, Packaging and packaging waste - Part 1: General rules of disposal and utilization, GB/T 16716.2, Packaging and packaging waste - Part 2: Means and program for evaluation, GB/T 16716.3, Packaging and packaging waste - Part 3: Prevention by source reduction, GB/T 16716.4, Packaging and packaging waste - Part 4: Reuse, GB/T 16716.5, Packaging and packaging waste - Part 5: Recoverable by material recycling, GB/T 16716.6, Packaging and packaging waste - Part 6: Recoverable by energy recovery, and GB/T 16716.7, Packaging and packaging waste - Part 7: Recoverable by composting and biodegradation.

Also, several standards related to packaging and the environment were developed, such as GB/T 18455-2010, Package recycling marking, GB/T 23156-2010, Packaging - Packaging and the environment - Terminology, GB 23350-2009, Requirements of restricting excessive package - Foods and cosmetics, GB/T 28060-2011, Guidelines for phytosanitary regulating wood packaging material, GB/T 31271-2014, Packaging - Rate of recycling - Definition and method of calculation, GB/T 31272-2014, Packaging - Rate of Recovery - Definition and method of calculation.

Making China's effort in international cooperation

Upholding the spirit of opening up and cooperation, Chinese experts devote themselves to international standardization of packaging and the environment. Experts from SAC/TC 49, Packaging, and SAC/TC 49 /SC 10, Packaging and the environment, have gradually participated in relevant international standards development. The joint secretariat for ISO/TC 122/SC 4, Packaging and the environment, is held by China and Sweden.

Chinese experts have practically participated in the establishment of the standards system on packaging and the environment. They have presided over or participated in the drafting of ISO 18601-18606 series standards and three ISO technical reports with remarkable effect. These documents include ISO 18601, Packaging and the environment - General requirements for the use of ISO standards in the field of packaging and the environment, ISO 18602, Packaging and the environment - Optimization of the packaging system, ISO 18603, Packaging and the environment - Reuse, ISO 18604, Packaging and the environment - Material recycling, ISO 18605, Packaging and the environment - Energy recovery, ISO 18606, Packaging and the environment - Organic recycling, ISO 21067-2, Packaging - Vocabulary - Part 2: Packaging and the environment terms, ISO/TR 17098, Packaging material recycling - Report on substances and materials which may impede recycling, ISO/TR 16218, Packaging and the Environment - Processes for chemical recovery, ISO/TR 18568, Packaging and the environment - Marking for material identification.

Catering to green development

To further keep in line with international practice, China has been revising the GB/T 16716 series, Packaging and packaging waste, which was later renamed Packaging and the environment, with reference to ISO standards since 2018. Also, new thoughts of packaging and environment have been introduced to Chinese experts, authorities and enterprises. Therefore, China's philosophy evolves from pipe-end treatment like recycling and reuse, front-end control of source reduction, to life circle with systemic management.

In 2019, China innovatively published a core standard for green packing evaluation, GB/T 37422, Method and criteria for green packaging assessment. This standard regulates four first-grade indicators including properties of resource, energy, environment and production, and approximately 20 second-grade indicators, such as restrictions on over-packaging, packaging system optimization, and recycling of packaging waste. It serves as a foundation to estimate green packaging, which makes China a pioneer for green development in the field of packaging and the environment.

Based on the standard, China's packaging industry carries out assessment of green packaging in the whole supply chain step by step. Also, Chinese representatives introduced GB/T 37422 at the plenary meeting of ISO/TC 122/SC 4 in 2019, which raised much concern from global experts.
SAC/TC 49 and the packaging industry will work together to promote the high-equality and eco-friendly development of packaging.


(Chinese version provided by SAC/TC 49 on packaging; edited and translated by Fang Luofan)
供稿:全国包装标准化技术委员会(SAC/TC 49);编译:方洛凡

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