Since the 1960s hazardous materials have been labelled using the now familiar square orange symbols.
These symbols were included in the most recent UK legislation – the Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2009 but are now to be slowly phased out in favour of new international symbols.
The new legislation, referred to as CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging) is based on the United Nation’s Globally Harmonised System (GHS) and is to be introduced slowly over the next few years.
The legislation became law in 2009 but the will not have to be fully implemented until 2015.
During this transition period there is bound to be a degree of confusion as people start to notice different labels to those that they have become accustomed to. In the long run, however, the advantages of a universal system are clear. Anyone who travels abroad or who is employed in international industries that deal with waste will recognise the new symbols without needing to know the local language regardless of where they are.