EC Adopts Regulation on Recycled Plastic Food Contact Materials

European Commission (EC) publishes new regulation encompassing recycling processes for all plastics intended to come into contact with food; outlines authorization procedure for recyclers, enforcement for Member States

On September 15, 2022, the European Commission officially adopted the new regulation on recycled plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food, (EU) 2022/15XX. The new regulation requires the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to assess and, if appropriate, authorize traditional as well as novel recycling processes “capable of producing safe plastics” while also outlining quality control and enforcement. The regulation comes into effect October 2022, and the Commission has developed a website with answers to frequently asked questions about the regulation and how it will be applied.  

To assist with transparency and enforcement by Member States, the regulation “sets up a Union (EU) register of recyclers, recycling processes, recycling installations, the facilities where these installations are located, recycling schemes and novel technologies.” EFSA already evaluates PET recycling procedures, but the new regulation also “requires that EFSA provides an opinion on whether novel recycling technologies are suitable to be used as a basis for recycling processes based on the kind of plastic input they are intended for” (FPF reported). Any recycled plastic food contact materials (FCMs) produced through these processes both in the EU and imported must also follow rules from Regulation (EU) 10/2011 on plastic FCMs.     

The EU collected comments on the proposed regulation between December 2021 and January 2022 (FPF reported) and released an updated draft in March of 2022 (FPF reported). In the time since March, the recycled plastics regulation had to be approved by Member States and the European ParliamentFPF commented on the original draft (FPF reported) with concerns about the chemical safety of packaging that could be put on the market under the “novel technologies” label. A systematic review of chemicals migrating from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) beverage bottles, co-authored by scientists from FPF, Brunel University, and others, showed that recycled PET is a source of migrating hazardous chemicals, including bisphenol A (BPA, CAS 80-05-7) (FPF reported), highlighting the need for increased safety evaluation of recycled plastics used in direct food contact.   

Nils Johansson argued in a recent comment in Sustainability Science that in order “to limit hazardous substances in a circular economy, the focus needs first and foremost to shift from the current win–win paradigm of the circular economy, to become more reflexive.” There needs to be systems in place, Johansson writes, that make the trade-offs between increased chemical exposure and decreased material use “visible, communicated and discussed.” Since currently “the complex balancing between the positive and negative effects of a circular economy disappears behind the threshold limits.”

Upcoming revisions to the packaging and packaging waste directive as well as the FCM legislation will continue to push all steps of the food packaging value chain in line with the goals of the EU Circular Economy Action Plan (FPF reported), Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (FPF reported), and Farm to Fork Strategy (FPF reported).   

 

 

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