Recycling companies wanting to use shredded waste plastics to make bottles or other containers will have to follow new European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) guidelines to ensure the materials are safe for consumers.
The European Union (EU) agency has released detailed notes on a mandatory assessment that must be carried out on companies wanting to manufacture such food and drinks packaging for the EU market.
New EU plastics regulation EC/282/2008 requires recycled plastics touching drinks or food to be made by processes assessed for safety by EFSA. The agency said it will take into account the quality of the input materials, the efficiency of the process to decontaminate the plastics and the intended use of the recycled plastic.
The system only controls the safety of mechanical recycling, where collected plastics are ground into small pieces, decontaminated and processed into new materials. Chemical recycling, where the plastic is effectively dissolved into its component parts and repolymerised, is not covered by these assessments.
Under EFSAs new guidance for mechanical recycling, packaging producers have to declare any existing national authorisation for their manufacturing processes; describe in detail how they grind and reassemble discarded plastic; and say where they source materials and ensure any waste plastic is not contaminated with chemicals or microbes making it unfit for contact with food or drink.
Applicants must also subject their decontamination procedures to a test to ensure they remove all potentially unhealthy elements from the waste plastic, declaring all experimental data.