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Photo by <a href="">Guillaume Périgois</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>

EU adopts new rules on recycled plastic in food packaging

In September 2022, a new Regulation on recycled plastic food contact materials (FCMs) was officially adopted by the European Commission. Commission Regulation (EU) 2022/1616 entered into force on 10 October 2022.

The new Regulation updates and simplifies existing regulations on the development, certification, and use of food contact materials (FCMs), including innovative novel plastic recycling technologies under development. With this, the previous Regulation (EC) No 282/2008 is repealed.

The new set of rules is of particular importance for the PRESERVE project since one of its main objectives is to develop new recycling processes and recycled bio-based plastic materials for packaging applications, including potentially food contact packaging.

The new requirements for the development of a novel technology are extensive. To mention but a few, the developer must notify the competent authority in the territory where the developer is based and the Commission about the novel technology. Moreover, the novel technology must be registered in the newly established Union register of technologies, recyclers, recycling processes, recycling schemes, and decontamination installations. The register will contain in-depth information on the novel technology and the properties of the recycling technologies, the developer, the installations, etc. Lastly, the developer will need to publish a detailed report, although excluding aspects of commercial relevance, if justifiable.

The new Regulation also contains provisions for monitoring and reporting contamination levels, assessing new technologies, and deciding whether to adopt them. Most crucially, the developer must publish a report on its website every 6 months, based on the latest information from all installations using the novel technology. As part of the new rules, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) needs to provide 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.

To encourage the development of these novel technologies, the new Regulation allows the placement on the market of recycled plastic materials and articles created using novel technologies under strict conditions and for a limited time. By doing this, developers will be able to collect data on a lot of samples, reducing uncertainty about the characterisation of the plastic input and recycled plastic materials, which is necessary to assess the suitability of a novel technology and to lay down the specific requirements, where appropriate.

Lastly, recycled plastic must still comply with Regulation (EU) No 10/2011. That is, recycled plastic used in Food Contact Materials must comply with the same rules on composition as newly manufactured plastic FCMs. As part of the ongoing revision of the EU Rules on FCMs, the European Commission just launched a public consultation on 5 October 2022 open to citizens and stakeholders.

The European Commission has set up a website to answer frequently asked questions about the new regulation and its application.

Author: EUBP/Estela López-Hermoso


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