Responsible Packaging Management is a process that follows the entire life cycle of a package or container. Its purpose is to address economic, legal and regulatory concerns associated with packaging and container use. 

Today we live under ever increasing standards of environmental responsibility, conservation of natural resources and need to address climate change. All forms of packaging are being re-examined to enhance reuse and recyclability. Environmental damage resulting from improper disposal of used packaging, as well as the contents residues - is no longer tolerated.

Producer Responsibility and Product Stewardship increasingly put the onus on the packaging producers as well as the users who are expected to see that these standards are met. Packagings for chemical and dangerous goods products and equipment are further under the spotlight for the dangers from residues, especially in developing countries where many forms of packaging are valued for use in informal housing and communities where they can pose risks to families who use them.

Packagings to be used with chemicals, whether retail or for industry use – even the large ISO tanks, road tankers and shipping containers are regulated. All have to be compatible with products to be packed, tested and certified for safe use with specific types of chemicals and chemical products and marked accordingly. Labelling of the filled pack is also regulated, as well as use and disposal of residues, then when emptied they should be carefully cleaned prior to reuse or recycle of the hazardous contents.

There are many good recycling and reuse initiatives globally and in South Africa for different packaging materials, making a contribution to sustainability BUT cogniscence needs to be taken of safe handling of residues and if they can be safely reused or if they need to scrapped with recycle of the material.

Used steel and plastic drums and containers have two environmentally acceptable fates: to be reconditioned and reused for transport, or to be processed for scrap and recycling. In both cases, all residues of prior contents must be removed, neutralised and disposed of in compliance with all relevant requirements. 

The International reconditioning industry has over the years developed the methods, especially for those used for chemicals to clean, recondition and test for safe compliant re-use. The steel and plastic drum, and composite IBC industry together with users under the Responsible Container Management programme, can ensure that these robust and versatile packages are cleaned and reconditioned in compliance with today's high standards, AND to meet the Transport Regulations for re-use.

Responsible Packaging Management for drums and IBC’s has several key elements:

A. SELECTION – to maximise the number of times a unit can be reused

Responsible Packaging Management begins with the selection of container performance characteristics by the container filler to ensure that it cn be safely reused. RPMASA can assist companies understand the legal requirements, and packaging manufacturers and reconditioners should provide useful, practical information to assist buyers in enhancing the value of their containers after use. Purchasers for chemical use should only buy containers that bear the applicable UN marking for their products. 


The process of disposition when the container status changes from full to empty. Persons responsible for empty packaging /container management have several crucial responsibilities. These include; proper emptying; maintenance of labels; preparation for transport; control procedures; and selection of a reconditioner or dealer compliant to accept and process empty containers. 


Certification of empty drums/ container status is a core requirement of Responsible Packaging Management. It is essential to ensure regulatory compliance and prevent unwanted liability exposure. It also adds benefit by reducing wasted raw material products.


A Responsible Packaging Management Audit assists packaging and container users to review the essential aspects of container selection, use and management. Such audit helps to identify those areas important to facilitate proper disposition of used containers.


RPM Plant review for container emptier who should prior to using a service provider, carry out a review of the reconditioning plant where used containers are cleaned, and either reconditioned for reuse or recycled as scrap. Several areas of plant operations should be consulted to confirm regulatory compliance.


Transport and Plant review for buyers of reconditioned containers for use with hazardous materials. A review of plant operations should be done for compliance with UN and Department of Transport requirements (refer SANS 10228, 10229 & 10232) and of the waste disposal facility they use. 


With a Responsible Packaging Management programme, recyclers of used chemical packaging can do it safely without causing environmental pollution.

For larger Industrial sizes the emptiers of drums, jerricans and IBC’s can maximise value for their used containers, ensure environmental regulatory compliance, and compliance for reuse in transport + eliminate serious liability exposures.

Buyers of reconditioned large packagings can also assure themselves that they are purchasing a reliable product whilst dealing with a reputable organisation and encouraging legal compliance and global best practice. Responsible Container Management incorporates new approaches to the long-standing concerns of used container disposition, and it meets the challenge of today's strict new regulations and heightened standards of environmental responsibility.

For more information and Audit contact RPMASA at