European plastics recyclers have called on the European Commission to outline what recycling processes are allowed in order to create food-grade packaging from secondary materials, over fears that industry investment will decline.
European Plastics Converters (EuPC), a pan-Europe trade association, said the Commission was dragging its feet in formally approving the processes that could safely be used to recycle plastics for use in contact with food.
EuPC said regulations set out more than nine years ago allowed the use of recycled plastic materials in such applications but none had yet been authorised.
The association added that the European Food Safety Authority has adopted more than 140 “positive scientific opinions” on safe processes.
EuPC warned that the lack of an EU legal framework prevented member states setting up harmonised recycling systems, and generated “legal uncertainty and unnecessary burden for the industry using recycled materials”.
Casper van den Dungen, Plastics Recyclers Europe vice-president and chair of the PET Working Group, said: “More than €500m (£450m) has been invested by companies in plants which can transform recycled plastics 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.
“This uncertainty leads to a decline in investments and, more importantly, to a possible mistrust in the legislation ruling food contact materials.”
Alexandre Dangis, EuPC managing director, said: “In order to realise a real circular economy in the EU, we ask the Commission to unlock this bureaucratic situation very urgently.
“Industry needs to remain competitive at a global level, and important investments have been made by hundreds of companies in Europe to comply with this regulation.”