Besides many beneficial properties, food packaging raises concerns due to its high production volume (the majority being single-use plastics made of fossil-fuel-based raw materials), and problems related to waste management. Examples of plastic food packaging include bottles, trays, bags, pots, cups, pouches, bowls, and many more. According to the EU waste hierarchy, prevention and reuse must be prioritised to achieve a circular economy; yet, we recognise that safe and efficient plastics recycling has a role to play.
Evidence shows that while virgin plastics contain known hazardous chemicals and untested chemicals which can be hazardous, recycled plastics contain (almost always) higher levels of hazardous substances; in both cases, these chemicals can end up in the human body due to their migration from the food contact materials to food and drink. The presence of harmful chemicals in food packaging is impacting both our health and our environment. Moreover, they hinder safe recycling. This calls for caution and a strong harmonised regulatory framework in the EU, to protect human health, prevent toxic recycling and to guarantee clean material cycles in a circular economy.
In September 2022, the Commission adopted a new Regulation on recycled plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food. The scope of this Regulation covers all kinds of recycled plastic and recycling technologies, including mechanical recycling, recycling of products from a closed and controlled product chain, the use of recycled plastic behind a functional barrier, and forms of chemical recycling. New rules will apply to novel recycling technologies and the evaluation of recycling processes.
This webinar went into great depth to answer the following key questions:
- What the current scientific evidence shows on hazardous substances in recycled plastics used in food packaging, and what are the challenges in the safety assessment of recycling processes/chemical contamination risk assessment
- How the EU, through new legal requirements, will ensure clean and safe plastic content intended for use in contact with food