A new trend in the global effort to tackle marine plastic debris is design for recycling, which is designing a recyclable product using recycled materials instead of virgin materials (Maris et al., 2014).

Japan leads the design-for-recycling initiative across ASEAN+3 countries. In 1992, the Council for PET Bottle Recycling in Japan issued a guideline on designing a recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle. Revised several times, the guideline contains basic requirements for different components in the manufacture of PET bottles. These requirements make recycling easier, for example by using materials with less than 1.0 specific gravity to make labels and caps to speed up sorting (Table 1).

Table 1. Basic Requirements for PET Bottles

Recycling: Design for Recycling (Table 1)

Component Basic Requirements Remarks
Bottle PET only for body*
  • Whether through blending, multilayering, etc., no materials other than PET should be used
  • Ensure safety and hygiene and no impact on the recycling process
No colour for body* -
Easily compressible structure** -
No base cup* -
  • Handle made of colourless PET or PE/PP with less than 1.0 specific gravity*
  • PE/PP handle with less than 1.0 specific gravity is recommended to be replaced with colourless PET**
No direct printing* Exclude small print of best before date, production plant and lot, and other codes
  • No PVC*
  • Material and its thickness should enable separation by specific gravity, pneumatic, and washing processes during recycling*
  • No ink is transferred to bottles*
  • No aluminium foil laminated labels*
  • No aluminium-metallised labels**
  • Shrink sleeves with perforations**
  • For labels glued onto bottles, such as roll-on, sheet, and tacky labels, adhesive usage and the area covered with the adhesive should be minimised for easy peeling off by hand, and should leave no fragment or adhesive on the bottle surface when detached**
  • No aluminium*
  • No PVC*
  • Should mainly be made of PE/PP with less than 1.0 specific gravity*
  • Where glass beads and gaskets are used, instructions on how to detach them from the bottle after consumption should be included on the label*
Applicable to shells, inner seals, and liner materials
Others (price tags and other glued attachments) Where adhesives, glue, or adhesive tapes are used to attach price tags, proof-of-purchase tapes, and promotional labels, etc., they are recommended to be attached to caps or labels. Where they are attached to the bottle bodies, they should be easily detachable by hand and should leave no fragment or adhesive on the bottle surface when detached** -
  • PET = polyethylene terephthalate, PE = polyethylene, PP = polypropylene, PVC = polyvinyl chloride.
  • * Required items.
  • ** Recommended items.

Source: The Council for PET Bottle Recycling (2016).

In line with the guideline, the Act on the Promotion of Sorted Collection and Recycling of Containers and Packaging (Act No. 112 of 16 June 1995) was enacted imposing responsibility upon manufacturers to rationalise the use of containers and packaging by using recyclable containers and packaging. They are further required to promote the sorted collection of waste containers and packaging that conform to the sorting standard. Manufacturers who apply the design for recycling are given incentives or technical support (Kojima, 2019).

Design for recycling also considers the use of recycled plastics instead of virgin plastics. Even if designed for recycling, plastics are not automatically recycled. The system should consider this. Even if plastics are recycled, it is essential to ensure that the process does not cause significant environmental impacts as those from the production of virgin plastics. Whether recycling is mechanical, chemical, or biological, or uses energy recovery, choosing technology with less environmental impact but reasonable cost is the biggest challenge.


Government of Japan (1995), Act on the Promotion of Sorted Collection and Recycling of Containers and Packaging (Act No. 112 of June 16, 1995)http://extwprlegs1.fao.org/docs/pdf/jap82815.pdf (accessed 28 November 2019).

Kojima, M. (2019), Plastic Recycling: Policies and Good Practices in Asia. Jakarta: ERIA. http://rkcmpd-eria.org/publicationsdetails.php?pid=15 (accessed 28 November 2019).

Maris, E., D. Froelich, A. Aoussat, and E. Naffrechoux (2014), ‘From Recycling to Eco-design’, in E. Worrell and M.A. Reuter (eds.), Handbook of Recycling. Oxford: Elsevier, pp.421–27.

The Council for PET Bottle Recycling (2016), Voluntary Design Guidelines for Designated PET Bottleshttp://www.petbottle-rec.gr.jp/english/design.html (accessed 28 November 2019).