On September 20, 2016 around 100 participants attended a conference on the future of plastics packaging in Brussels, Belgium, which was organized by the European Plastics Converters Association (EuPC). Speakers from the European Commission (EC), the packaging industry, different associations, and the food industry presented their views on the environmental impacts of packaging, the Circular Economy Package (CEP) and extended producer responsibility (EPR), as well as recycling and innovation of packaging. All presentations are available at EuPC’s website.

Alan Davey from the LINPAC Group explained two possible ways to obtain food-grade recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET). PET recycling processes that fall under the recycling regulation ((EC) No 282/2008) have to include special cleaning steps whose efficiency has to be measured by so-called challenge tests (FPF reported). Alternatively, PET can be recycled by the coextrusion of functional barriers. Such processes are not covered under the recycling regulation, but the functional barriers have to fulfill the requirements defined under the plastics regulation ((EU) No 10/2011). However, migration tests showed that functional barriers often did not sufficiently inhibit the migration of contaminants from the recycled PET, Davey stated. Consequently, PET recycling processes based on functional barriers should also be subject to evaluation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and authorization by the EC, Davey concluded.

Silvia Freni Sterrantino from EuPC gave an overview on the CEP that was initiated by the EC in December 2015 and shall be adopted in 2017. She summarized the proposal’s aims, the timeframe and detailed the strategy on plastics. The three trade organization PlasticsEurope, Plastics Recyclers Europe, and EuPC established a joint group to find a common set of priorities shared among the actors of the plastic value chain, Sterrantino explained. Common positions of this group include the focus on “zero plastics to landfill,” accepting the challenge to reuse and recycle 55% of plastic packaging and the call for mandatory separate collection of all packaging by 2025. The group further demands a uniform methodology for calculating recycling performance (FPF reported), EU wide standards for plastic waste, and innovation in technologies throughout the whole plastics value chain.

Philippe Dierxsens from Danone presented his company’s plastics recycling policy and the implications of the CEP on processes upstream and downstream of the product. For upstream processes, Dierxsens recommended to obtain data on the resources used, design the product according to the recycling rules and combine different techniques to reduce a product’s environmental impact. Recommendations for the downstream process included the creation of consumers’ awareness, push for a landfill ban, establishment of a recycling infrastructure and EPR.

Read more

EuPC (September 21, 2016). “The future of plastics packaging.

EuPC (September 20, 2016). “Plastics value chain agrees on common demands for the Circular Economy Package.

FPF Dossier (November 2014). “Plastic recycling.