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Japan Permits Sale of Label-less Products

A new policy in Japan allows certain products to be sold without an over-label. Label-less products help reduce waste, environmental load, and labor costs and are becoming popular in Japan.

1. Market Tendency for Label-less Products

On Mar. 31, 2020, Japan METI announced a revision to “Act on the Promotion of Effective Utilization of Resources,” Under this act label-less products are now acceptable on certain types of products in Japan.  A label-less product is made by directly engraving the recycling identification mark on PET bottles instead of pasting labels.

1) Exploring the market of label-less products before the regulation change (Asahi as an example)

As early as 2018, Asahi Soft Drinks began to work on label-less products. These label-less products will eliminate plastic labels attached to PET bottles. It helps to reduce waste, environmental load, and the labor costs associated with affixing and removing stickers. However, since the product itself has no label, the product is only sold in cases, and the labeling information, such as the raw material, must be written on the outer cardboard case.

Recycling identification mark label on 16CHA (十六茶) - Asahi Soft Drinks

Nevertheless, the recycling identification mark label of the product is still indispensable. In 2019, “Asahi Delicious Water” Natural Water (Label-less) had annual sales in excess of 1 million cases, prompting the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI)  to consider changing the identification mark label system.

2) Market performance of the label-less products after regulation change

Nowadays, label-less products are popular in Japan. On Apr. 7. Asahi Soft Drinks started selling cases of “Tasty Water, Natural Water, Label-less Bottle" (600mlPET / 2LPET) using label-less bottles, allowing it to reduce the amount of plastic resin used annually by 7 tons. The company also develops completely label-less products for "16CHA" and "lactic acid bacteria." As one of the elements of sustainable development, label-less products are highly accepted and supported by consumers.

い・ろ・は・す (I LOHAS)

 2. The revision of identification mark label system

On Mar. 31, 2020, Japan METI unveiled the amendment to "Act on the Promotion of Effective Utilization of Resources," which involved changing mark sizes and omitting labels. Major contents of the amendment are as follows: 

Point 1: Reduce the size of the identification label.

The size of the identification mark on steel cans, aluminum cans, and PET bottles can be reduced to the same size as on plastic and paper now.

Point 2: Engraving the recycling identification mark instead of labeling.

Before the amendment was made, PET bottles filled with a beverage, wine, and specific condiments shall meet the following two requirements on identification marks.

  • Engraving one or more marks on the bottom or sides of individual containers;

  • Printing or labeling at one or more places on the sides of individual containers.

In the amendment, Japan METI announced that as long as product containers meet the following requirements, the recycling identification mark can be directly engraved on the PET bottle instead of pasting labels.

  • Engraving one or more marks on the bottom or sides of individual containers;

  • The products should be sold to final consumers by units with an outside package (corrugated box, paper, or a composite outside package, etc.). Retail is not included.

  • An identification mark is engraved, printed or labeled on the outside package, and the category of marks should be indicated (e.g." bottle "(ボトル), etc.).

It is noteworthy that when recycling identification marks on individual containers are omitted, the mark has to be labeled on the outside package. Besides, the label-less requirements are only applicable to PET bottles filled with beverages, alcoholic beverages, and specific condiments.

Hereunto, such PET bottles can be sold as no-label products completely.

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