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Interpretation Response #21-0022

Below is the interpretation response detail and a list of regulations sections applicable to this response.

Interpretation Response Details

Response Publish Date:

Company Name: Hazmat Safety Consulting

Individual Name: Bob Richard

Location State: VA Country: US

View the Interpretation Document

Response text:

June 17, 2021

Bob Richard
Hazmat Safety Consulting
1765 Duke Street
Alexandria, VA  22314

Reference No. 21-0022

Dear Mr. Richard:

This letter is in response to your January 27, 2021, letter—received by this Office on March 5, 2021—requesting clarification of the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180) applicable to closure instructions for United Nations (UN) specification packaging. Specifically, you state that your company has audited a client that ships batteries for recycling. Your client receives significant quantities of end-of-life batteries which they then repackage and ship to recycling facilities. Your client transports the end-of-life batteries to the recycling facilities in drums, many of which are UN specification drums that are shipped to them from upstream customers. During the audit, you state that you informed your client that while UN specification packaging is not required for lithium batteries shipped for recycling or disposal, the use of UN specification steel and plastic drums is acceptable. You also informed your client that when UN specification packaging is required for hazardous materials, they must close the packaging in accordance with the manufacturer’s closure instructions and maintain a copy of those instructions on-site. You ask whether it is the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's (PHMSA) position that all of the requirements of the HMR (including closure instructions) would be applicable to a packaging marked as a UN specification packaging even if UN specification packaging is not required by the HMR.

You are correct that in accordance with § 173.185(d), lithium cells or batteries shipped for disposal or recycling do not require the use of UN specification packaging when shipped in strong outer packaging. It is the opinion of this Office that when the HMR does not require UN specification packaging for a hazardous material, the use of UN specification packaging is not subject to the notification requirements specified in § 178.2(c), including closure instructions. However, under § 171.2(g), no person may represent or offer a packaging as meeting the requirements of the HMR unless the packaging is manufactured, fabricated, marked, maintained, reconditioned, repaired, and retested in accordance with the applicable requirements of the HMR. These requirements are applicable whether or not the packaging is used for the transportation of a hazardous material. Therefore, if the specification packaging is not maintained in accordance with the HMR, we recommend you securely cover any identifying marks representing it as such to avoid the potential of a frustrated shipment.

I hope this information is helpful. Please contact us if we can be of further assistance.


T. Glenn Foster
Chief, Regulatory Review and Reinvention Branch
Standards and Rulemaking Division

171.2(g), 173.185(d), 178.2(c)

Regulation Sections

Section Subject
171.2 General requirements
173.185 Lithium cells and batteries
178.2 Applicability and responsibility