EU Commission adopts updated food-contact recycled plastic requirements

Mark Victory


LONDON (ICIS)–The EU Commission has adopted legislation updating rules on food-contact recycled material requirement, which encompass both mechanical and chemical recycling.

Along with restrictions on the type of input waste used for recycling to food contact, the legislation mandates the use of “suitable technologies” for recycling waste, which currently only include mechanical polyethylene terephthalate (PET) recycling, and chemically uncontaminated closed-loop recycling “not collected in mixed form, and/or from consumers”, and re-used in the same type of product they have originated from.

Nevertheless, there is an exemption from the regulation for plastic waste used to manufacture substances under Article 5 of Regulation (EU) No 10/2011, as long as they are intended for subsequent use in accordance with that regulation. This would appear to potentially exempt chemical recyclers reverting material back to monomers.

The legislation does give a limited exemption for food-contact material produced using novel recycling technologies to be traded on the market until enough evidence can be gathered for a decision to be made on the suitability of the technology, subject to a public reporting process.

Novel technologies would also be exempted from waste input requirements.

Nevertheless, the legislation would appear to require that once approved, and no longer novel technologies, that the input limitations listed in the paragraphs above would then apply. This would be potentially problematic for chemical recyclers relying on post-industrial waste and reject bales input waste and reverting material further back than monomer.

To be deemed a novel technology under the proposals, developers would have to demonstrate how the novel technology differs from existing technologies.

The regulation uses the definition of recycling set out in Directive 2008/98/EC, in which recycling is “any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes. It includes the reprocessing of organic material but does not include energy recovery and the reprocessing into materials that are to be used as fuels or for backfilling operations”, which has left the legal status of chemical recycling uncertain.

Additional reporting by Caroline Murray


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