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Development of processes and quality procedures for the valorisation of recycled plastics for food contact applications

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Novel techniques for recycling plastic food-packaging waste

An EU initiative developed a new process to recycle plastic waste for food packaging. This resource enables industry to conform to European Commission regulations on recycled plastic materials and parts intended to come into contact with foods.

Industrial Technologies

Many beverages and food items are delivered in bottles or packages made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). A PET package can be made from 100 % recycled PET, and the material can be recycled over and over again. However, most of the coloured and layered PET is currently non-recyclable and thus cannot be processed for food-contact packaging. The EU-funded SUPERCLEANQ (Development of processes and quality procedures for the valorisation of recycled plastics for food contact applications) project set out to develop quality control and quality assurance tools and procedures for plastics recycling processes aimed at food-contact applications. Project partners devised a quality assurance test for recycled food-contact materials that was published in the form of a European standard. This helps to ensure compliance with European Commission regulations while enabling governing bodies, regulators and industry to determine the purity of such products in a cost-effective and reliable way. Other developments include a process to recycle currently unrecyclable coloured and barrier-modified PET, a decontamination system for PET recycling, and a real time in-line monitoring system for process quality control to verify that chemicals meet required levels. SUPERCLEANQ contributes to the development of new recycling methods for the wider food-contact materials industry. This will address the issue of some 700 000 tonnes of coloured and layered PET yearly that cannot be recycled by existing PET recycling facilities for food-contact packaging.

Keywords

Plastic waste, food packaging, polyethylene terephthalate, recycled plastics, food contact

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