GDR 6: Increase Recycling Value in Flexible Consumer Packaging

For flexible consumer packaging made mostly from plastic1:

  1. Regional design guidelines to fit with existing recycling programmes2 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 2023, the following requirements apply:
    1. Maximise polyolefin content:
    2. Preferably >90% mono PE, or >90% mono PP
    3. Minimum either >80% mono PE, >80% mono PP or >80% mixed polyolefins
    4. Density <1 g/cm3
    5. Each barrier layer should not exceed 5% of the total packaging structure weight4
    6. No PVC, PVDC, fibres, aluminium foil, PET

Demand for flexible packaging is expected to increase with increasing demand for convenience food and online retailing.

Consumer flexible plastic packaging is not currently recycled in practice or at scale, however there are multiple efforts underway to improve collection, sorting and recycling systems to recycle flexible materials.

All consumer flexible packaging made mostly from plastic

  • ‘Consumer’ packaging is packaging likely to end up either in the household waste stream or disposed of by consumers during consumption outside the home
  • ‘Flexible’ packaging is packaging that does not keep its shape when moved or emptied.
  • ‘Made mostly from plastic’ defined as packaging made from >50% plastic (i.e. where plastic is the predominant material)

Read more detail in the Resources section of this website.


Flexible plastic packaging makes up an estimated 51% of the total plastic packaging market.*


1 )‘Mostly from plastic’ defined as packaging which is > 50% plastic (based on EU recognized definition of a ‘predominant’ material). This rule does not cover compostable plastic packaging that meets accepted certification standards for compostability. 2) 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. 3) As accepted by industry associations and multi-stakeholder value-chain initiatives such as CEFLEX and Plastics Pacts and targeting recycling rates of > 30%. 4) Only use barrier layers and barrier coatings proven not to limit the recyclability of the packaging. AlOx, SiOx, EVOH and PVOH are recommended. Excess outer metallisation (as a barrier or for decoration) could lead to misdetection of the packaging and misdirection to waste.

*EMF New Plastics Economy Global Commitment Progress Report 2020