Cracking the UN Code: Decoding UN Ratings

Cracking the UN Code: Decoding UN Ratings
Container and Packaging
by Container and Packaging
September 8, 2020, Updated August 6, 2021

Take a look at this: 1H2/Y1.5/30/15/USA/+AB2012. That is a UN code. But what does it mean? Have you ever encountered a bunch of numbers and letters that you just didn't understand? If you aren't a code-breaker, these strings of characters may be baffling. What secrets do these puzzles hold? Let's unravel this mystery.

What are UN Codes?

If you come across a container or package with a bunch of numbers or letters that looks kind of like that one above, you've probably discovered a UN code. You may also see a circle with the lowercase letters un inside. Or the container may just have the uppercase “UN” printed on it. These signify that the packaging is UN certified. UN stands for United Nations, the intergovernmental organization founded 70 years ago. We often hear about UN summits, UN charters, UN sanctions, and other happenings of the United Nations. But did you know that the UN has standards for the transportation of hazardous materials? That's where UN codes come into play.

Deciphering UN Codes

When a container or package is UN certified, it is given a UN code. To learn about what these codes mean, we are going to break down the following UN code:

UN 1H2/Y1.5/30/15/USA/+AB2012

UNThis container is UN certified.

This identifies the type of container:



  • 1 “ Drums/pails
  • 2 “ Barrels
  • 3 “ Jerricans (large flat-sided metal container used for fuel)
  • 4 “ Boxes
  • 5 “ Bags
  • 6 “ Composite packaging
  • 7 “ Pressure receptacle

This is what the container is made out of:



  • A “ Steel
  • B “ Aluminum
  • C “ Natural wood
  • D “ Plywood
  • F “ Reconstituted wood
  • G “ Fiberboard
  • H “ Plastic
  • L “ Textile
  • M “ Paper, multi-wall
  • N “ Metal (besides steel or aluminum)
  • P “ Glass, stoneware, or porcelain

Category within the type of container:



  • 1 “ Closed head (non-removable top)
  • 2 “ Open head (removable top)

Packaging group or performance level:



  • X “ Packaging group I; may also be used for II or III; highest danger or hazard level
  • Y “ Packaging group II; may also be used for I; medium danger or hazard level
  • Z “ Packaging group I; lowest danger or hazard level
1.5This is the highest density or specific gravity that this container can hold. However, if the container will hold solids or has an inner packaging, it is the maximum gross mass (weight) in kilograms.
30This is the hydrostatic test pressure. In simple language, this is how much liquid pressure the container can tolerate. If the container holds solids or has an inner packaging, then this field will have an S and the gross mass (weight).
15This code specifies the year the container was manufactured.
USAThe country where the container was made.
+AB2012This is the manufacturing plant's code.


So just with a few simple letters and numbers, you can learn a lot about a container. If you have a UN code, you can crack it! You know what kind of container it is. You know what it is made of. And you know what kind of head it has. You can specify what kinds of hazardous materials the container can carry and the density or weight of the materials. You also know how much liquid pressure it can withstand. And finally, you know the year, country, and manufacturing plant of the container or packaging material.

If you are in need of a UN code certified container, just contact a representative at Container & Packaging Supply. We have a variety of UN rated containers and lids, perfect for all of your hazardous material needs.