13/11/2020

5 KEY ISSUES RELATED TO RECYCLING PLASTIC FOOD PACKAGING

On 14 October this year, Guía Blanco and Víctor Barrera, in collaboration with the international packaging-sector website PACKAGING EUROPE, hosted a webinar entitled “How to achieve recyclability in transparent food contact plastic packaging”.

  • The following are the most important issues that arose from the conference. The advantages of PET trays over PP trays in terms of the circular economy. They are easier to sort and classify, even when made of multilayer film. Recycling plants are increasingly separating out bales of postconsumer PET trays. This is due to the expected growth in demand for bottle flakes between now and 2030, with many 100% RPET applications already being produced. While is true that the PP recycling stream is being developed in most European countries, unlike PET, this does not have an EFSA-approved decontamination technology that allows the recycled material to be certified food safe.
  • Advantages of rPET trays over other packaging, in relation to its carbon footprint. rPET reduces carbon emissions and does not consume fossil fuels, so its carbon footprint is 0.45 kg per kilogram, as opposed to 2.15 kg for virgin PET. This represents 79% fewer greenhouse gas emissions, making it by far the best option. Very few alternatives have such a low environmental impact, not even reusable containers.
  • Regulations on the inclusion of recycled material, and more liability for waste producers. A tax of € 0.45 per kg of plastic consumed is expected for Spain. The EU also recently announced a new tariff for all member states of € 0.80 per kg of plastic packaging that is not correctly recycled, which will come into force on 1 January 2021. Although the details have still not been published, this tariff is not expected to apply to the percentage of plastic that is recycled.
  • Advantages of monomaterial packaging if they cannot include recycled material. There is a general tendency in Europe towards recycling PE. The idea is that replacing multilayer materials (which are difficult to sort and reprocess) with a monomaterial PE will help improve the recycling of flexible plastic waste. However, while this has been achieved for many applications, in some cases it is not possible. There are a few variables that we need to bear in mind, for example, that mechanical recycling cannot be used with food-safe applications, and that there are other options, such as chemical recycling and the use of biological waste to create PE. These are currently being considered by the European Commission, which will decide whether to introduce legislation on them or exclude them from taxes.
  • Guarantees of the supply of chemically recycled solutions and/or bio-based solutions. Although it is still too soon to predict what the supply and demand will be for each type of polymer and recycling technology, at SP GROUP we see more future for solutions that do not compete with resources used for food production. We also believe that investment in chemical recycling technology has grown exponentially, with an almost endless amount of plastic waste to recycle; although the carbon footprint is practically the same as for virgin polymer. We hope that these, and other new developments, also provide us with many options for also recycling materials that will be food safe, and that the European Commission agrees these sections of recycled material should be exempt from plastic taxes.

To watch the webinar, click on the following link.

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