Plastic Recyclers Europe criticizes EU’s recycling approval delay “obstacle”

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05 Oct 2017 --- The Plastic Recyclers Europe (PRE) group has issued a statement critical of the EU’s delay in approval of recycling processes in food contact applications, calling it: “an obstacle to the circular economy.” 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, PRE notes.

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. 

Following these opinions, the European Commission is in a position to officially authorize the evaluated processes. However, it has not taken any initiative in that direction so far.

“This news is disappointing as the economics and technology are ready to develop the market of recycled PET in food contact applications,” Antonino Furfari, Plastic Recyclers Europe Managing Director, tells FoodIngredientsFirst. “But the legal uncertainties and delays are postponing investments.”

Industry condemns uncertainty
The absence of EU legal framework prolongs the lack of harmonization among the Member States and generates legal uncertainty and unnecessary burden for the industry using recycled materials, according to PRE.

“More than €500 million (US$589 million) has been invested by companies in plants which can transform recycled plastic materials into materials suitable for packaging and food contact applications,” says Casper van den Dungen, PRE Vice-President & Chairman of the PET Working Group. “In 2014, more than 50 percent 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 decline in investments and more importantly to a possible mistrust in the legislation ruling food contact materials,” van den Dungen adds.

Other organizations from across the value chain have joined the call. “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,” according to Christian Crépet, Executive Director of Petcore Europe. “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.”

In order to realize a real circular economy in the European Union, the organizations ask the EU Commission to unlock this bureaucratic situation very urgently, according to Alexandre Dangis, Managing Director, EuPC.

“Industry needs to remain competitive at a global level and very important investments have been made by hundreds of companies in Europe to comply with this EU regulation,” adds Dangis.

Patricia Fosselard, EFBW Secretary-General, emphasizes that natural mineral and spring water producers are important users of recycled plastic (PET).

“Having a harmonized 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,” according to Fosselard.

PRE has, therefore, urged the Commission to authorize recycling processes positively evaluated by EFSA. It believes that this authorization would ensure harmonization of the market and remove any legal uncertainty in trading recycled materials in food contact applications. It would also enable to drive the circular economy for plastics by opening new markets for plastics recyclates, PRE adds.

“For recycled plastics in food applications, we will continue our dialogue with the EU authorities in order to overcome the delays as soon as possible,” Furfari tells FoodIngredientsFirst of PRE’s plans for the future.

By Paul Creasy

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