Packaging standards refer to guidelines, regulations, or specifications established to ensure the quality, safety, and sustainability of packaging materials and processes. These standards help manufacturers, retailers, and consumers make informed decisions about packaging design, materials, and handling.
Let us continue to examine packaging standards in the Asia Pacific region.

Japan: The Packaging Act

The Packaging Recycling Act, also known as the Law for Promotion of Sorted Collection and Recycling of Containers and Packaging, is a prime example of effective packaging regulations. Enacted in 1995 and implemented in 1997, it has significantly contributed to promoting the recycling of packaging materials and reducing waste. This act, which requires businesses to participate in recycling programs or pay recycling fees, serves as a model for other countries looking to implement similar regulations.

Key Provisions of this Packaging Act

a. Producer Responsibility: The Act's Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) provision is a game-changer. It compels manufacturers and businesses to collect and recycle the packaging materials they produce or import. This approach is a powerful incentive for companies to design eco-friendly packaging and reduce waste at the source.
b. Sorted Collection: Municipalities are responsible for collecting sorted packaging waste. Citizens must sort their waste into specific categories, such as PET bottles, glass bottles, paper, and plastic packaging. This sorting system helps make recycling more efficient. The Japan Containers and Packaging Recycling Association (JCPRA) encourages proper recycling of items that meet sorting standards.
c. Recycling Obligations: Municipalities transfer recyclable materials to recycling companies. These companies must adhere to strict government recycling standards, ensuring high-quality recycled materials.
d. Funding Mechanism: Producers, municipalities, and consumers share the costs of collecting and recycling packaging materials. Producers pay recycling fees based on the amount and type of packaging they produce, contributing to the financial sustainability of the recycling system.

Impact of the Regulation

a. Reduction in Waste: The amount of packaging waste sent to landfills has significantly decreased. This measure has successfully redirected much waste towards recycling, conserving landfill space, and reducing environmental pollution. According to statistics from the OECD Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), there was a significant decrease in the percentage of products being disposed of in landfills: 39% for glass bottles, 72% for PET bottles, 60% for other paper packaging, and 76% for other plastic packaging over the 2010 decade. The waste reduction rate in 2019 increased to 99%, and the amount of waste sent to landfills decreased by 1.1% from 2018, based on data from the Ministry of the Environment in Japan.
b. Increased Recycling Rates: The overall recycling rate in Japan has remained close to 20 percent over the past decade. The act has facilitated the recycling of a wide range of materials, including plastics, paper, glass, and metals, contributing to resource conservation, and reducing the demand for virgin materials.
c. Economic Benefits: The recycling industry has become a significant sector in Japan's economy, creating jobs and fostering innovation. The sale of recycled materials generates revenue, offsetting some of the costs associated with waste management.
d. Environmental Conservation: The Act has contributed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by minimizing the need for incineration and promoting the use of recycled materials. It has also helped preserve natural resources and reduce packaging's environmental footprint.

China – Packaging Regulations

Below are brief descriptions of some of the main packaging-related regulations in China.

1. Cleaner Production Promotion Law:

The Cleaner Production Promotion Law of the People's Republic of China promotes sustainable industrial practices, reduces pollution, and enhances resource efficiency. It was enacted in 2002 and revised in 2012. This law establishes a comprehensive framework to encourage businesses to adopt cleaner production methods.


a. Pollution Prevention: The law prioritizes the prevention of pollution over control, aiming to reduce the generation of pollutants at the source.
b. Resource Efficiency: It promotes the efficient use of resources, including raw materials, water, and energy, to minimize waste.
c. Environmental Protection: The law aims to protect and enhance the environment by reducing harmful emissions and discharges from industrial activities.

Key Provisions

a. Mandatory Assessments: Enterprises identified as major polluters must undergo mandatory cleaner production audits, which help pinpoint opportunities for reducing resource consumption and pollution.
b. Technological Upgrades: The law encourages the adoption of advanced technologies and processes that reduce pollution and resource use. Enterprises are incentivized to upgrade their equipment and processes to meet cleaner production standards.
c. Regulatory Compliance: Companies are required to comply with national and local environmental standards. Failure to comply can result in penalties, including fines and operational restrictions.
d. Public Participation: The law emphasizes transparency and public participation. Organizations must disclose information about their cleaner production practices and environmental performance. The public and non-governmental organizations are encouraged to monitor and report on environmental compliance.
e. Incentives for Cleaner Production: Financial incentives, such as tax reductions and subsidies, are provided to enterprises that adopt cleaner production technologies and practices. These incentives aim to reduce the financial burden of transitioning to cleaner methods.
f. Research and Development: The law promotes research and development in cleaner production technologies. It encourages enterprises to invest in innovation and collaborate with research institutions to develop sustainable industrial practices.
g. Training and Education: The government supports training programs to enhance the knowledge and skills of workers and managers in cleaner production methods. Education campaigns are also conducted to raise awareness about the benefits of cleaner production.
h. Monitoring and Reporting: Enterprises must regularly monitor and report their cleaner production activities and environmental performance to regulatory authorities. This data is used to assess compliance and identify areas for improvement.

Implementing the Cleaner Production Promotion Law has significantly reduced industrial pollution and improved resource efficiency in China. It has also led to the adoption of more sustainable practices across various industries, including manufacturing, chemical production, and energy generation. The law has also contributed to China's broader goals of achieving sustainable development and transitioning to a circular economy.

2. Restriction on Excessive Packaging

China has implemented strict regulations to reduce excessive packaging as part of its efforts to combat environmental degradation and promote sustainable development. One such directive measure is the Standard for Restriction on Excessive Packaging. This regulation, known as GB 23350-2009, was implemented in 2009 and was significantly updated to GB 23350-2021, addressing the issue of over-packaging, especially in the food and cosmetics industries.
Over-packaged products increase waste, strain recycling systems, and higher carbon emissions. The Chinese government has taken action to enforce more sustainable packaging practices.

Key provisions of the revised GB 23350 Standard

The revised standard GB 23350-2021, which has been in effect since September 1, 2021, further regulates the restrictions on packaging by setting clear and enforceable guidelines:

1. Maximum Allowable Empty Space: The standard specifies the maximum allowable empty space within the packaging to prevent excessive material use. For instance, the void space in packaging for certain food items is restricted to no more than 30%.
2. Number of Packaging Layers: The regulation limits the number of layers of packaging materials. For example, products are restricted to four layers of packaging, while grain and processed foods are restricted to three layers.
3. Material Restrictions: The standard encourages the use of recyclable and biodegradable materials, promoting environmentally friendly alternatives to non-recyclable plastics and other harmful materials.
4. Labeling Requirements: Packaging must include clear labeling that provides information on the materials used and instructions for proper disposal or recycling. This ensures that consumers are well-informed and can participate actively in waste reduction efforts.

Impact on Industries

1. Food and Beverage: Manufacturers have had to redesign their packaging to comply with the new standards, reducing the use of excessive and non-recyclable materials.
2. Cosmetics: The cosmetics industry, known for its elaborate packaging, has had to streamline packaging designs to align with the regulations.
3. E-commerce: Online retailers focus more on sustainable packaging solutions to meet consumer expectations and regulatory requirements.

3. Plastic Waste Ban

China's Plastic Waste Ban, announced in January 2020, aims to reduce plastic pollution by gradually eliminating the production and use of certain single-use plastic products. This regulation is part of China's broader efforts to tackle environmental issues and promote sustainable development. The ban is being rolled out in stages, with specific timelines for phasing out different types of plastic products and will culminate in a full ban and compliance with the plastic ban regulation by the end of 2025.

Prohibited Plastic Products

a. Plastic Packaging: Non-degradable plastic packaging materials have been phased out by the end of 2022 in the postal and courier industries.
b. Plastic Bags: Non-degradable plastic bags have been banned in major cities by the end of 2020, and the ban has been extended to all cities and towns by 2022. Markets selling fresh produce will have until 2025 to comply.
c. Plastic Straws: Since the end of 2022, single-use plastic straws have been banned nationwide in the food service industry.
d. Plastic Cutlery: Non-degradable plastic cutlery (forks, knives, and spoons) has been banned for dine-in services since the end of 2020 and for take-out services by the end of 2025.

Impact of Plastic Ban

a. Promoted Alternatives: The regulation encourages using environmentally friendly alternatives, such as Biodegradable Plastics and Recyclable materials in packaging and other applications.
b. Supply Chain Adjustments: Industries must adjust their supply chains to incorporate sustainable alternatives.
c. Cost Implications: Biodegradable and recyclable materials can be more expensive than conventional plastics, impacting costs for businesses and consumers.

4. Circular Economy Promotion Law

Key Provisions of the Circular Economy Promotion Law Related to Packaging

a. Resource Efficiency and Waste Reduction

1. Packaging Design: Encourages the design of packaging that uses fewer materials, is easy to recycle, and has a lower environmental impact. This includes reducing the amount of packaging material and using more sustainable materials.
2. Material Selection: Promotes using recyclable, biodegradable, and renewable materials in packaging to reduce dependence on non-renewable resources and minimize waste.

b. Recycling and Reuse:

1. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): Producers are responsible for the entire lifecycle of their packaging materials, including the take-back, recycling, and proper disposal of packaging waste. This incentivizes producers to create more sustainable packaging.
2. Recycling Infrastructure: Supports infrastructure development for collecting, sorting, and recycling packaging materials. This includes establishing recycling facilities and systems to ensure that packaging materials are effectively recycled and reused.

5. General Rules of Restricting Excessive Packaging on Commoditiee

The GB/T 31268-2014 standard outlines general principles for minimizing excessive packaging and controlling packaging design, materials, and costs. This standard applies to all product packaging and aims to reduce waste and promote environmental sustainability by restricting unnecessary packaging materials. It was issued on December 5, 2014, and implemented on May 1. It will be superseded by GB/T 31268-2024, which has been issued by April 2024 and will come into effect by the end of the current year.

Key Provisions of GB/T 31268-2014

a. Material Selection

1. Environmentally Friendly Materials: Encourages the use of materials with a lower environmental impact, such as recyclable, biodegradable, and renewable materials.
2. Prohibited Substances: Limits or bans the use of certain hazardous substances in packaging materials to reduce environmental and health risks.

b. Design and Production

1. Minimal Packaging: Promotes designs that use the least amount of material necessary to protect the product, thus reducing waste.
2. Reuse and Recycling: Encourages designs that facilitate the reuse and recycling of packaging materials, making it easier to collect and process.

c. Labeling Requirements

1. Environmental Labels: This requirement requires clear labeling of packaging materials to indicate their environmental attributes, such as recyclability, biodegradability, or recycled content.
2. Consumer Information: Provides guidelines for labeling that inform consumers about how to properly dispose of or recycle the packaging, aiding in waste reduction efforts.

d. Life Cycle Assessment

1. Life Cycle Approach: This approach encourages businesses to consider the entire life cycle of packaging materials, from production to disposal, and to choose options that minimize environmental impact at every stage.


This standard has a significant impact on various industries, especially manufacturing, food and beverage, and consumer goods.

1. Enhance Corporate Responsibility: By demonstrating a commitment to environmental sustainability, companies can improve their brand reputation and gain consumer trust.
2. Compliance with Regulations: Adhering to this standard ensures compliance with national environmental regulations and helps companies avoid penalties associated with non-compliance.
3. Market Competitiveness: Companies that adopt sustainable practices appealing to environmentally conscious consumers can gain a competitive edge.

GB/T 31268-2024

The GB/T 31268-2024 which will come into effect, is an update to the previously established guidelines for environmentally friendly packaging. As an evolving regulation, it continues to build on the principles set forth in the earlier versions, focusing on reducing the environmental impact of packaging through sustainable practices.
While the GB/T 31268-20214 focuses on general principles, GB/T 31268-2024 expands the scope to include more detailed requirements and stricter guidelines for material selection, production processes, and labeling. This reflects advances in technology, increased environmental awareness, and enhanced enforcement mechanisms to promote sustainable packaging.

6. The List of Dangerous Goods: GB 12268

This is a critical regulation in China that provides a comprehensive catalog of hazardous materials and substances. The standard aims to:

1. Identify hazardous materials and substances.
2. Provide standardized classification and labeling requirements.
3. Ensure safe packaging, handling, transportation, and storage practices.
4. Prevent accidents and mitigate risks associated with dangerous goods.

Key provisions of GB 12268

a. Classification of Dangerous Goods

1. Hazard Classes: The regulation classifies dangerous goods into different hazard classes based on their physical, chemical, and toxicological properties. These classes include explosives, gases, flammable liquids, flammable solids, oxidizing substances, toxic substances, radioactive materials, corrosive substances, and others.
2. UN Numbers: Each dangerous good is assigned a unique United Nations (UN) number for easy identification and reference in international transport.

b. Packaging and Container Specifications

1. Packaging Standards: GB 12268 sets standards for the packaging of dangerous goods to ensure that they are contained securely during transportation and storage. The packaging must be robust enough to prevent leaks, spills, or reactions.
2. Container Requirements: Specific guidelines are provided for the types of containers that can be used for different classes of dangerous goods, ensuring they are suitable for the substances they hold.

c. Labeling Requirements

1. Hazard Labels: The regulation specifies the types of labels that must be affixed to dangerous goods to indicate their hazards. These labels include symbols, hazard class numbers, and other relevant information.
2. Markings: Packaging and containers must have detailed markings that provide information on the type of hazard, handling instructions, and emergency measures.

d. Handling and Transportation

1. Transport Regulations: The regulation outlines procedures for the safe transportation of dangerous goods, including requirements for transport vehicles, documentation, and personnel training.
2. Emergency Response: Guidelines are provided for emergency response measures in case of accidents involving dangerous goods. This includes steps for containment, evacuation, and communication with emergency services.

e. Storage Guidelines

Storage Facilities: Requirements for storage facilities are detailed to ensure they are designed and maintained to prevent accidents. This includes provisions for ventilation, temperature control, and separation of incompatible substances.
Safety Measures: Safety measures such as fire protection, spill containment, and security protocols are mandated to minimize the risk of incidents during storage.


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