South Korea has taken a step towards carbon neutrality and has approved the first ever physically recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) containers for food and beverages.

The new policy, applicable from January 17, 2023, only includes PET containers that have undergone a physical or mechanical recycling process and have not been subject to a chemical recycling process. As per the Promotion of Saving and Recycling of Resources Act (Recycling Act), the South Korean Ministry of Environment (MoE) has graded the packing material into the following four (04) categories:

  • Best to Recycle
  • Good to Recycle
  • Normal to Recycle
  • Difficult to Recycle

The South Korean Health Authority (HA) has banned materials like Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and coloured PET plastic bottles because they are more difficult to recycle, as compared to transparent PET plastic bottles.

The safety standards for PET containers for food packaging fall under the Food Sanitation Act, which establishes the laws for food safety, as per the guidance of the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) and the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS).

What is the Safety Review Criteria?

Chemical processes like heating, refining, and polymerizing are used to recycle plastic for creating food packaging materials. The official announcement on PET contains guidelines on the review criteria that determines the recycling process. The regulations that manufacturers need to follow are:

  • Raw materials (PET flakes) suitable for the manufacturing of raw materials for food containers should adhere to the Standards for Recycled Raw Materials for Food Containers established by the MoE.
  • The primary goal of the manufacturing facility is putting together recycled food-grade raw materials at every stage of production, with periodic operation condition checks.
  • The removal of contaminants during the regeneration process, the removal efficiency, and other aspects of the recycling process should follow the packaging and specifications standards. Also, dissolution, residuals, removal rates, etc., should be compliant with the safety standards.

Thus, with respect to food and beverage packaging, South Korea has placed a lot of importance on enhancing its local recycling systems and policies over the past few years. The country passed a recycling law in 2019, and since then, it has constantly been amending the law, updating recycling labels and symbols, and making them compliant with market standards.


To sum up, the MFDS has developed the necessary safety regulations to ensure that the physically recycled raw materials are safely used to make new food containers, which are in accordance with international trends; this in turn will help expand recycling efforts as a part of South Korea’s national sustainability strategy.

Businesses that seek to make food packaging out of physically recycled PET materials must apply for MFDS approval. Get the most recent updates on the food and dietary supplement regulation in South Korea by following Freyr. Contact our Regulatory experts to learn more!


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