Shipping hazardous materials
Are you shipping hazardous materials without realizing it?
Any packages with lithium batteries, flammable liquids, weapons or perishables need to follow specific compliance rules before shipping. But in order to safely ship what you sell, you’ll need to know if your items fit into different classifications.
How to know if your item is hazardous
Check for the most common culprit: lithium batteries
A high number of shipments considered hazardous have lithium batteries that weren’t declared. Almost all rechargeable devices, from cell phones to power tools, contain lithium batteries. Plus, different items require different hazmat labels based on the amount of power in the battery.
The USPS has restrictions related to non-new condition electronic devices containing lithium-ion batteries. These items can only be sent via ground services, and you won’t be able to drop these items in a mail collection box; you need to take them to a counter or schedule a pickup from USPS.
Check for other common hazardous items
Other commonly missed items that require special packaging are perfumes, nail polish, hairspray, cleaning supplies, firearm accessories, knives, swords, lighters, auto accessories, and plants or seeds.
Terms to know
Hazardous materials or dangerous goods
These are items that can cause harm or are dangerous during handling and transport (i.e. combustibles, carcinogens, poisons, or corrosive cleaners). They can be sent if labeled, packaged, and shipped correctly.
Read eBay’s complete hazardous materials policy.
Restricted items on eBay cannot be sold on the platform, regardless of service or carrier used. To read more about what you can and cannot sell on eBay, visit our restricted items page.
In addition to following eBay’s restricted items policy, you also must abide by separate carrier-specific shipping restrictions.
Shipping in compliance means correctly labeling and packaging your items in addition to abiding by eBay’s and your carrier’s specific hazmat requirements.
Ship hazardous materials with USPS on eBay Labels
When shipping items that contain hazardous materials with eBay Labels, you must select the USPS Parcel Select Ground Service®.* UPS and FedEx services are not available for these shipments.
*Ensure that your hazmat package is eligible for USPS Parcel Select Ground Service® by reading USPS’ Pub52 requirements.
Package and label correctly
It’s your responsibility to ensure your shipments are packaged, labeled, and handled in compliance.
Know what you can ship, and how to ship it.
Not following instructions could result in delays, confiscation of the item, imposition of eBay seller restrictions or suspension, and even being fined by USPS and government agencies.
When packaging items for shipping, very specific hazmat labels may be required.
They vary by item based on a number of criteria, but are separate from the eBay Label or other shipping labels.
Tip: Avoid reusing boxes with old hazmat stickers for non-hazmat items, as it could cause the package to be returned to sender.
Whose responsibility is it to understand and prepare hazmat shipments?
Governmental agencies consider the seller/shipper of the product responsible in understanding if your products are hazmat, how to prepare, and ship them. One of the best ways to identify if a product is hazardous is to locate its Safety Data Sheet (SDS) or Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and check Section 14 (Transportation). A quick search online typically is able to find the relevant document.
Do I need to follow Hazmat Policy if shipping using eISD or GSP?
Yes, sellers still need to follow domestic and international rules and correctly label their packages so eBay can be made aware that the shipment contains hazardous materials.
What items are classified as hazmat or dangerous goods?
There are 9 classes of hazardous materials which present different hazards in transport. Explosives, Gases, Flammable liquids, Flammable solids, Oxidizing substances, Toxic (poison), Radioactive, Corrosive, and Miscellaneous hazards. Some of these classes are broken down into divisions that define more specific attributes. Use this visual guide as an aid: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/Nine_Classes_of_Hazardous_Materials-4-2013_508CLN.pdf
Who sets the rules for hazmat shipping?
It depends on the mode of transport. Domestically, the 49 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) sets the rules for shipping hazmat by land, air, and inland waterways. Internationally, the IMDG Code (International Maritime Dangerous Goods) lays down the law for shipment by vessel. The ICAO (International Aviation Organization) & IATA (International Air Transport Association) set the regulations for air transport. Find more information at these links: https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-49, https://www.imo.org/en/OurWork/Safety/Pages/DangerousGoods-default.aspx, https://www.iata.org/en/publications/dgr/.
If I follow all the rules, can a courier service still choose to reject my parcel?
Yes, couriers set their own standards on top of the already strict regulations. Couriers want to protect their employees, and physical assets from harm. They may decide to forbid certain types of goods from transport on their aircraft, vessels, or trucks. For example, a few companies will not accept loose lithium batteries for transport because of fire concerns.
Are there penalties for shipping hazmat without following the regulations?
Yes, failing to comply with the relevant regulation may result in fine, penalty, or even jail time. That’s why it’s very important to follow the rules set by governmental agencies and couriers. See penalties in the 49 CFR § 107.329 Maximum penalties: https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-49/subtitle-B/chapter-I/subchapter-A/part-107/subpart-D/subject-group-ECFR278a3e426100316/section-107.329.
What are the most common types of hazmat?
As stated earlier on the page, the most common types we see at eBay are: lithium batteries, perfumes, nail polish, hairspray, cleaning supplies, lighters, and auto parts. That’s not the entire list, you may have a different type of hazmat depending on what you sell. The U.S. DOT offers a “Check the Box” guide to other types of common hazardous materials: https://www.transportation.gov/check-the-box/check-box-it-hazmat.
What labels are required for packages containing lithium batteries?
Package marking and label requirements vary depending on factors such as number of lithium cells or batteries and watt-hours.
Refer to this guide from the PHMSA to understand requirements for the item you are shipping: