Using ‘recycled packaging materials’ claim must be registered with authorities in South Korea

30 November, 2023

Earlier this month, South Korea released two new drafts under the Resources Saving and Recycle Promotion Act. Notably, one of these drafts requires that food manufacturers must register with authorities to make a ‘recycled packaging’ claim on their food products.

Building on the success of recycling rules in 1991 and a mandatory recycling logo in 2003, South Korea has achieved one of the world’s highest recycling rates for packaging materials(1,2), surpassing Japan and China(3).

These drafts play a crucial role in advancing sustainability trends gaining momentum worldwide. They exemplify South Korea’s dedication to reducing plastic use and waste, with provisions compelling Food Business Operators (FBOs) to incorporate recycled materials into their packaging, aligning with the national strategy.


Recycling obligations

The March 2023 Act, outlines manufacturers’ obligations to recycle, emphasizing structural enhancements to packaging properties, as well as improvements in the collection and recycling of waste from both households and manufacturers. The Act also highlights that certain businesses, including packaging manufacturers and food manufacturers, are exempt from recycling obligations depending on the packaging type used and business size (i.e. revenue, volume of packaging materials delivered and imported) as established in the Enforcement Decree.

Enforcement rule

The first Draft, called the ‘Enforcement Rule’, outlines voluntary labelling standards for recycled packaging materials, enabling businesses to communicate the presence of such materials to consumers. The Draft Amendment to the Enforcement Rule, issued by the Ministry of Environment (ME), crucially requires all food manufacturers to submit an application for use of ‘recycled packaging material’ claim on food/beverage products, ensuring compliance with specified criteria. For instance, PET bottles for foods must contain a minimum of 10% of recycled PET to carry the claim of ‘recycled packaging material’ on the label. The specific wording for these labels is yet to be established, and the authority is accepting comments for both drafts until 17 December 2023.

Enforcement decree

The second Draft published by the ME (Draft Amendment to the Enforcement Decree), known as the ‘Enforcement Decree’, introduces a clear definition of recycled packaging material to assist manufacturers in using such materials.

These two drafts mark a milestone in South Korea’s commitment to advancing its national sustainability objectives. Through the implementation of these drafts, manufacturers of pre-packaged foods – whether national or international companies – are actively urged to embrace recycled packaging materials as an environmental friendly alternative. This strategic shift will resonate with consumers who prioritize products with lower carbon footprints.

Support with labelling compliance

Both national and international food manufacturers must register with South Korean authorities to make the ‘recycled packaging material’ claim. If you need help obtaining approval to use this claim on your product packaging in South Korea, Leatherhead's in-house, native South Korean regulatory expert is available to provide support. Feel free to reach out to [email protected] for assistance, and we’ll get back to you.

Members of Leatherhead Food Research can utilize their Helpline time to address specific queries, such as document requirements or liaising with the authority.



(1) From Austria to Wales: The five best recycling countries in the world (

(2) 10 Countries Tackling Plastic Pollution (Sustainability Magazine)

(3) Recycling Rates by Country 2023 (

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