Recycled Plastic For Food Use In “Legislative No-Man’s Land”

EU businesses are in a “legislative no-man’s land” due to the delay of any EU legal framework on the use of recycled plastic materials in food applications, says European Plastic Converters (EPC).

More than nine years have passed since the publication of the Regulation (EC) No. 282/2008 setting up the rules on the use of recycled plastic materials in food applications.

To this date, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has adopted more than 140 positive scientific opinions on the safety of processes to recycle plastics for use in food contact materials, EPC says. Following these opinions, it says the European Commission is in a position to officially authorise the evaluated processes. However, it has not taken any initiative in that direction so far.

It says the absence of EU legal framework prolongs the lack of harmonisation amongst member states and generates “legal uncertainty and unnecessary burden” for the industry using recycled materials.

“In 2014, more than 50% of the recycled PET in Europe was used in food contact applications. But EU businesses are still in a legislative no-man’s land due to years of delay.”

The PET value chain urges the Commission to authorise recycling processes positively evaluated by EFSA.

This authorisation would ensure harmonisation of the market and remove any legal uncertainty in trading recycled materials in food contact applications, EPC says, and that it will also drive a circular economy for plastics by opening new markets for plastics recyclates.

Casper van den Dungen, PRE Vice-President & Chairman of the PET Working Group, said: “More than €500m have been invested by companies in plants which can transform recycled plastic materials into materials suitable for packaging and food contact applications. In 2014, more than 50% of the recycled PET in Europe was used in food contact applications. But EU businesses are still in a legislative no-man’s land due to years of delay.”

He added: “This uncertainty leads to decline in investments and more importantly to a possible mistrust in the legislation ruling food contact materials.”

Other organisations from across the value chain have joined in the call.

Food contact development is subject to clear regulations, said Christian Crépet, Executive Director of Petcore Europe. He added: “Although PET is one of the most widely recycled polymer, the absence of regulation results in a lack of market visibility for sales of recycled PET. This situation affects the whole value chain from virgin production up to waste management. Investment is down and the “bottle-to-bottle” activity should be facilitated.”

Alexandre Dangis, managing director, EuPC added: “In order to realise a real circular economy in the European Union we ask the EU Commission to unlock this bureaucratic situation very urgently. Industry needs to remain competitive at global level and very important investments have been made by hundreds of companies in Europe to comply with this EU regulation.”

Patricia Fosselard, EFBW Secretary General, emphasised that natural mineral and spring water producers are important users of recycled plastic (PET). “Having a harmonised European framework on recycling processes will pave the way for greater use of recycled plastic and foster circular economy while bringing legal certainty to recyclers and users alike.”


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