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Classifying plastics for import and export

Aug 04, 2023Aug 04, 2023

Get help to classify plastics for import and export.

This guidance refers to chapters and headings in the UK Global Online Tariff. If you’re importing goods into Northern Ireland, or if this guidance does not include your item, read more information.

The bulk of these products are classified in chapter 39, however there are some exceptions (such as plastics containing precious metals or for the use of their recovery). See products excluded from chapter 39.

These are classified in headings 3901 to 3914 and can be defined as:

To classify polymers in primary forms, you must identify the main monomer.

Examples of polymers are:

Examples of monomers are:

Copolymers refer to polymers in which no single monomer makes up 95% or more of the total weight of the polymer content.

Copolymers (including co-polycondensates, co-polyaddition products, block copolymers and graft copolymers) are classified in whichever heading covers the main comonomer.

If a main comonomer cannot be identified, the product should be classified in the heading (relevant to each of the comonomers) which is last in numerical order. For example, a copolymer made up of 50% ethylene (heading 3901) and 50% propylene (heading 3902) will be classified in heading 3902.

Chemically modified polymers, where only appendages to the main polymer chain have been changed by chemical reaction, are classified in the heading for the unmodified polymer.

Abbreviations and their meanings include:

Articles of plastic that are broken, worn or clearly not usable for their original purpose are classified under heading 3915. They must also be either:

Semi-manufactured and finished products are classified under headings 3916 to 3926. When classifying products in chapter 39, you must consider if the product:

If the plastic is covered with textile on both faces, it is classified as a textile in chapter 59.

When classifying these products, you need to know:

There are 3 processes that can be used to turn polymers in primary forms into finished products. These are:

Heading 3917 covers hollow products that are generally used for moving gases or liquids. These products include:

If the product has an internal cross-section that is not round, oval, rectangular (length not exceeding 1.5 times the width) or in the shape of a regular polygon, it is not to be regarded as tubes, pipes and hoses but as profile shapes.

Heading 3918 covers wall and ceiling coverings made of plastic. To be classified under this heading, they must:

This is to differentiate them from some wallpapers.

The layer of plastics (on the face side) can be:

Heading 3925 covers:

Manufactured articles of plastic that are not classified in chapter 39 are listed in legal note 2 to chapter 39.

When a product consists of plastic and one or more other material, it’s necessary to determine which material gives the article its essential character. If the essential character is a material other than plastic, it must be classified under a heading covering that material.

Plastics containing precious metal compounds of a kind, used principally for the recovery of precious metal, are classified under heading 7112.

If this guidance does not cover your specific item in detail and you’re importing goods into Great Britain, you can search for it in the Online Trade Tariff.

If you’re importing goods into Northern Ireland from outside the UK, and the EU and the goods are not ‘at risk’ of onward movement to the EU, you should also use the Online Trade Tariff.

If you’re importing goods into Northern Ireland from outside the UK and the EU, and the goods are at risk of onward movement to the EU, you should use the Northern Ireland (EU) Tariff.

If this guidance does cover your item, you’ll still need to look up the full commodity code to use in your declaration on the appropriate tariff.

Get more help to find a commodity code.

The finished and processed products section has been updated.

The further information section has been updated to show the change of contact details.

First published.