In an article on August 20, 2021, Recycling Today reported on some of the challenges in the supply of food-grade recycled plastics. A growing number of governments are mandating the incorporation of recycled plastics into products through programs like the EU Single-Use Plastic Directive (FPF reported), and retailers are starting voluntary initiatives (FPF reported here and here), but the supply of food-grade recyclate is limited. According to the article, currently, only 10% of recycled polymers are food-grade with the majority being polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The authors explain that in Europe, “[the] food-grade recycled polyolefin market has had difficulty growing because the level of investment was not seen to carry sufficient returns.”
Earlier this month the European Commission registered a Citizens’ Initiative to create an EU-wide plastic bottle deposit system and extended producer responsibility scheme that could potentially increase the supply of plastics for recycling. The #ReturnthePlastics initiative proposes “an EU Directive for a deposit system to allow consumers to conveniently return their plastic bottles to the supermarkets where they were purchased, to close the loop on the materials used for producing the bottles.” Registering the initiative does not obligate the Commission to take any action immediately. Instead, the registration acts as a promise that if organizers collect at least “1 million statements of support within 1 year from at least seven different Member States” then the Commission will consider the proposal for review and formally explain its decision to move forward or not.
In a recent study on plastic packaging, the World Wildlife Fund Germany found that even if all current commitments about plastic use in Germany were fully implemented, “the need for new plastic would increase by four percent.” The authors encourage going beyond recycling commitments and towards “a fundamental rethinking [of packaging] that consistently focuses on avoiding waste instead of just increasing recycling volumes.” The study found that “almost a quarter of plastic waste (up to 23 percent) could be saved by 2040 through expanded or innovative reusable systems” (FPF reported).
Paula Leardini (August 20, 2021). “Ramp-up in food-grade recycled plastics necessary.” Recycling Today
European Commission (August 13, 2021). “European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission decides to register ‘ReturnthePlastics’ initiative on plastic bottle recycling.”
Sophie Herrmann, et al. (August 17, 2021). “WWF-Studie zu Plastikmüll: Wie Kreislaufwirtschaft für Kunststoffverpackungen funktionieren kann.“ World Wildlife Fund Deutschland (in German).