On May 3, 2016 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Christel Schaldemose and Birgit Collin-Langen hosted a lunch debate entitled “Safe & Circular: boosting recycling rates and ensuring food safety” at the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels, Belgium. The event was co-sponsored by the European Container Glass Federation (FEVE).

In her opening speech, MEP Collin-Langen stressed that “safety of packaging materials has to be an integral part of the circular economy,” and that consumers need to be reassured of the chemical safety of food contact materials (FCMs). Steffen Seehausen of glass and metal FCM manufacturer Ardagh explained that glass was considered a permanent material with infinite recyclability and without the need to add virgin raw materials when reusing. Marcello Montisci of Vetropack, a manufacturer of container glass, explained insights from consumer surveys, saying that food safety is very important to consumers (FPF reported), and 94% of EU consumers like recycling with regard to any FCM material. The recycling industry was represented by Baudouin Ska of FERVER who highlighted the need for selective collection of different packaging materials, as opposed to co-mingling where quality and material loss are major shortcomings. Michael Warhurst of the public interest group CHEM Trust gave the perspective from consumer health and discussed “how to guarantee safe food contact materials.” He explained that if hazardous chemicals are present in materials, recycling does not make sense. Therefore, he advocated for removing any substances of concern from FCMs and other recyclable products like thermal paper before these enter into circular material streams.

In her closing comments, MEP Christel Schaldemose summarized the discussions by saying that the “quality of recycled materials is essential, not only the quantity” and that this aspect needs to find greater consideration in the circular economy debate. Further, she highlighted benefits of permanent materials permitting infinite recycling, and repeated the calls for better functioning FCM regulation at the EU-wide level, in the interest of both consumers and industry.

Presently, the EP is preparing a report on FCM regulation (FPF reported), as well as discussing the Circular Economy Package (FPF reported).

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FEVE (May 12, 2016). Making the EU circular economy real.