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South Korea Revises Packing Material Recyclability Rating Standard

On February 28, 2022, the Ministry of Environment (MOE) modified the Packing Material Recyclability Rating Standard1 to adjust the recyclability level of several packaging materials. 



On December 25, 2019, MOE enacted the Act on the Promotion of Saving and Recycling of Resources2, which banned PVC materials and colored PET bottles. 

The Act also requires enterprises to evaluate the packaging material grade. The manufacturers or importers shall grade the recyclability of specific packaging materials into four levels: "best to recycle," "good to recycle," "normal to recycle," and "difficult to recycle". 

The recyclability grade of “difficult to recycle” needs to be attached to the products. Moreover, the producer of such materials is required to bear a higher cost for material recycling.

(Find more about the recycling requirements in ChemLinked Article3)


1. Designating Difficult-to-Recycle Materials

(1) Composite material containers and trays

For composite material containers and trays that used to be evaluated as“good to recycle”, if the container or tray's main body part is conjunct with metal or other materials other than synthetic, and these parts are inseparable, the composite material containers and trays will be evaluated as “difficult to recycle” under the updated regulation. 

This modification is applicable to cosmetic containers with metals attached to the synthetic resins, beverages with sealed containers, and food containers and trays with aluminum attached to synthetic resins, etc.


 (Examples of composite material containers and trays)

(2) Composite material film and sheet

Composite material film and sheet that used to be evaluated as “good to recycle”, such as cooler bags for ice cream, are to be sorted as “difficult to recycle” if the aluminum used in the film or sheet is more than 50㎛.


(Example of composite material film)

2. Business Entity's Obligation

If a packaging material's recyclability is changed as per the revised Standard, its manufacturer or importer needs to re-conduct an assessment of the packaging material's recyclability level. They should then submit the results to the Korea Environment Corporation (KEC) before September 30, 2022, to update the recyclability level.

For more information about packaging material recyclability evaluation, please refer to ChemLinked article: South Korea Packaging Materials Requirement (Part 2): Methods of Evaluating and Labeling Recyclability4.

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