The consortium includes Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute and S+S Separation and Sorting Technology, Smithers Rapra, the University of Exeter and the British Plastics Federation (BPF) in the UK.
Other companies involved in the three-year project (which began in November) include Italian concerns Dentis, Aliplast and Assocomaplast, MOS from The Netherlands and EuPC and CEN in Belgium; co-funding from these concerns will push the budget for the project up to just over €2.39m.
Announcing the successful funding award, the BPF said in a statement the principal aim of the project was to “develop quality assurance tools and procedures for plastics recycling processes targeted at food contact application, to enable SMEs to conform to EC regulations on recycled plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food”.
New recycling process sought
BPF Small Plastics Processor group executive, Tim Marsden, told FoodProductionDaily.com: “The main aim of the EC funding programme is to primarily help the SME’s around Europe get the foothold that the larger companies already have, where the latter have an advantage in terms of their size and R&D budget.”
These tools will also be applied to a new recycling process for coloured and layered polyethylene terephthalate or PET (for food contact applications), which cannot be processed by current recycling facilities.
The BPF said: “The project results will accelerate the development of new recycling processes for the wider food contact materials market, and provide quality assurance for converters and end users of recycled product applications for food contact, thereby overcoming barriers and expanding this high-value recycling market.”
Other objectives include (1) the development of a 100% reliable post-market challenge test for the validation of recycled food contact materials (2) A totally reliable post-process validation protocol to assure the effectiveness of plastics recycling processes for food contact applications.
Another goal is to expand the European market for recycled plastics to allow recyclers locally to reprocess plastic waste that is currently exported: “Historically, his has been to China, and looking forward I imagine it will be the developing nations in that area, possibly Vietnam,” Marsden said.
APPE welcomes news
Welcoming the announcement, PET pre-form, bottle and container designer and producer APPE’s marketing manager, Kinza Sutton, told FoodProductionDaily.com: “As a leading producer and convertor of rPET [recycled PET] for food-use, APPE welcomes these efforts not only to increase the supply of rPET but also to improve and standardise the quality of rPET produced.”
Sutton said APPE saw these three key areas as crucial for the long-term successful use of recycled PET across Europe.
She added: “However, there is still a great need to educate consumers on sorting and recycling in order to supply the high-quality post-consumer PET waste in to the recycling stream, which is the very foundation of a reliable and consistent source of high-quality rPET.”
Last July the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued an opinion spelling-out how it would assess different technologies used by recyclers to turn to polyethylene terephthalate (PET) from post-consumer waste into food contact materials.