GDR 5: Increase Recycling Value for PET Thermoformed Trays and Other PET Thermoformed Packaging

For PET thermoformed trays and other PET thermoformed packaging:

  1. Regional design guidelines to fit with existing recycling programs¹ shall be met wherever possible.
  2. For packaging that is not accepted by existing recycling programs, and where there is a clear pathway for a future recycling system by 2025², the following requirements apply:
    1. Use transparent and uncoloured (preferred), or transparent blue or green PET³
    2. Ensure material choice, adhesive choice, inks and size of sleeve or label is not problematic for recycling⁴
    3. Use only mono-material PET⁵
    4. Use minimal or moderate direct printing⁶
    5. Ensure material choice and adhesive choice of lidding films, inserts or other components is not problematic for recycling⁷

PET trays are not currently recycled at scale but solutions are being scaled-up in Europe and North America – a rule to increase recyclability would provide a boost to emerging recycling infrastructure and increase the quantity and availability of rPET which is necessary to meet targets around recycled content³ This rule is aligned with published retailer guidelines and third-party guidelines such as APR, RecyClass / PetCore and WRAP.

Read more detail in the Resources section of this website.


If adopted industry-wide, a rule on PET trays and other thermoformed PET packaging would affect >3% of the total plastic packaging market.*


1) Recycling programs are at different stages of development in different regions, so companies are recommended to check regional advice or guidelines such as those provided by APR in the US. Signatories should use the exceptions reporting process to record cases where they have followed regional design guidelines instead of the Golden Design Rules. 2) As accepted by industry associations and multi-stakeholder value-chain initiatives such as RecyClass/PetCore and Plastics Pacts and targeting recycling rates of >30%. 3) With an L-value of 40; Do not use fillers that affect clarity; coatings should not lead to misdetection of the packaging and misdirection to waste. 4) Including phase out of paper labels and PETG, PVC and PLA labels/sleeves, and non-water soluble/dispersible adhesives. Labels/sleeves should not lead to misdetection of the packaging and misdirection to waste. 5) Including minimum 95% PET content with an intrinsic viscosity that is suitable for the recycling programme in region. Do not use materials that have a negative impact on rPET clarity. 6) E.g. production date or expiry date; Where additional printing is necessary, use of labels is preferred. If this is not possible, use only inks that do not bleed. 7 ) Lidding films, inserts and other components should not lead to the misdetection of the main packaging, and if using non-PET polymers, density should be <1g/cm3.

*EMF New Plastics Economy Global Commitment Progress Report 2020