EFSA evaluates the safety of ‘PET-M’ recycling process

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food contact materials Polyethylene terephthalate European food safety authority

EFSA safety evaluation ‘PET-M’ recycling process
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has evaluated the recycling processes for plastic waste, according to Commission Regulation (EC) No 282/2008 on recycled plastic materials intended to come into contact with foods and amending Regulation (EC) No 2023/2006.

The Ministerie van Volksgezondheid Welzijn en Sport, the Netherlands, requested the evaluation of the recycling process PET-M, on behalf of Plastic Technologies & Products, in  the Czech Republic (EU RECYC062).

Washed and dried PET flakes

Material for PET-M is washed and dried polyethylene terephthalate (PET) flakes originating from collected post-consumer PET containers, mainly bottles, containing less than 5% of PET from non-food consumer applications.

The process comprises four steps. First the collected post-consumer PET containers, mainly bottles, are processed into washed and dried flakes (step 1). These flakes are fed into a heated mixing reactor while drying with hot air (step 2), mixed with a modifier (step 3), and then extruded under vacuum and pelletized (step 4).

An EFSA panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids found  that steps 2 (heating and drying under air flow) and 4 (extrusion under vacuum and pelletisation) are critical for the efficiency of decontamination.

The operating parameters which control the performance of these steps are temperature, residence time and air flow, for step 2, and temperature, time and pressure, for step 4.

The panel concluded recycled PET obtained from the process PET-M is not of safety concern when it is used up to 60% to manufacture bottles and up to 90% to manufacture thermoformed trays and containers not used for packaging water.

The recycling process ensured the level of migration of potential unknown contaminants into food is below a conservatively modelled migration of 0.1 μg/kg food derived from the exposure scenario for infants and 0.15 μg/kg food derived from the exposure scenario for toddlers.

Plastic Technologies & Products

According to the applicant, Plastic Technologies & Products, recycled PET obtained from this process is intended to be used up to 10% in the manufacture of final materials and articles, in particular bottles and trays, intended for contact with all types of food for long-term storage at room temperature, with or without hot fill.

The Panel decided PET-M is able to reduce any foreseeable accidental contamination of post-consumer food contact PET to a concentration that does not give rise to concern of a risk to human health if: it is operated under conditions that are at least as severe as those obtained from the challenge test used to measure the efficiency of decontamination of the process;

The input of the process is washed and dried post-consumer PET flakes originating from materials and articles that have been manufactured in accordance with the Community legislation on food contact materials containing no more than 5% of PET from non-food consumer applications;

The final bottles manufactured with the recycled pellets contain up to 60% recycled post-consumer PET and the thermoformed trays and containers manufactured with the recycled pellets and not used for packaging water contain up to 90% recycled post-consumer PET.

The articles made of this recycled PET are not intended to be used, and should not be used, in microwave and conventional ovens and the panel recommended it should be verified periodically, as part of good manufacturing practice.

Source: ​EFSA Journal 2015;13(4):4064 [17 pp.]
Title:​ EFSA Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF)
On request from:​ Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Netherlands
Question number:​ EFSA-Q-2010-00093
Adopted:​ March 19, 2015
Published:​ April 13, 2015
Affiliation:​ European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Parma, Italy

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