In an overview article published on November 19, 2020, Independent Commodity Intelligence Services (ICIS) discusses what appears to be a shift across Asia over the past year by multiple national regulatory agencies to more widely allow recycled plastics for use in food contact materials (FCMs). It refers to announcements made earlier this year by South Korea (FPF reported), China (FPF reported), and Thailand (FPF reported) to consider allowing or expanding approved uses of recycled plastics in FCMs including from mechanically recycled plastics and from resins including polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE).
“The use of recycled materials in FCM is becoming a ‘very hot topic’ in China,” commented Zhu Lei, the Deputy Director of China’s National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA) during a recent regulatory conference hosted by Chemical Watch. The article sees these as “major announcements that will drive the region’s circularity of plastics, further supporting the achievement of both country and brand’s sustainability targets.” However, it also recognizes the challenges remaining that “the industry needs to address to ensure these FCMs are in fact ‘food grade.’” This is especially the case considering that the Asian region does not have an “overarching regulating body or regionally agreed definition of what food grade plastics are.” Japan is described as being the only country having a regulatory framework for food grade recycled plastics, which is based on a positive list system (FPF reported).
The article argues that the lack of a regional definition of ‘food grade’ will not impact recyclers who already have their processes approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but it will certainly affect the many other recyclers operating locally across the region. With large food brands already making commitments to achieve 50% recycled content in their packaging by 2030, “the global challenge for brands to gain access to high-quality food grade recycled plastics is a wide gap to bridge.”
Jia Hui (November 19, 2020). “Insight: The potential of recycled packaging for food contact in Asia.” ICIS