A food safety panel has approved applications from Indorama Ventures, Veolia, Coca-Cola Hellenic, NOVAPET and other plastic waste pickers to recycle PET into new food and drink packaging.
Over the past seven months, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has approved 28 applications to recycle plastic waste, mostly PET, into food and drink packaging and utensils. It rejected a request, saying the submission lacked necessary data and had unresolved inconsistencies.
Of the 29 applications, 26 concerned the recycling of PET using technologies developed by Erema, NGR, Polymetrix, Starlinger and others. The other three sought to recycle a number of different polymers found in specific waste streams, including HDPE bottle caps.
The decisions were taken by the Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes and Processing Aids (CEP), which is part of EFSA. In the European Union, recycled plastics and additives can only be used in food and drink packaging if they are first reviewed by EFSA for their safety.
Twice a year, Plastics Recycling Update takes up the opinions of the panel. The most recent roundup was published in December 2021. Here are the CEP determinations that have been published since:
(Note: In the PET recycling processes below, the inputs are washed and dried PET flakes derived from post-consumer food and beverage containers collected from curbside and via deposit-refund systems. Approvals CEP allow the RPET produced to be used in 100% recycled content food and beverage packaging for long-term storage at room temperature, with or without a hot-fill process.)
Erema Vacurema Prime and Basic technologies
The panel of January 27, 2022 published two favorable opinions on Erema PET recycling processes, one for Coca-Cola HBC Polska outside Poland and the other for Fa. Enkador SA outside Ecuador.
Erema’s Vacurema Prime technology involves introducing the flakes into two-batch reactors, where they are heated, causing the contaminants to vaporize and the flakes to crystallize. The twin reactors then feed the flakes into a continuous reactor, where the flakes are then exposed to a high temperature for a specific time. Finally, the flakes leave the reactor and are melted in the extruder, where the solid particles are filtered before the production of preforms or granules.
On March 22, the panel approved four applications to use Erema Basic technology, which is different from the Vacurema Prime process. In the Erema Basic process, the flakes are continuously fed into a reactor equipped with a rotating device, which moves them as they are exposed to heat and vacuum. The flakes are then sent to the extruder, where the plastic is melted and extruded into pellets or sheets.
The CEP approved applications from AN YA PLASTICS Corporation from Taiwan, INTCO MALAYSIA SDN BHD from Malaysia, Zibo Containers from South Africa and Utsumi recycle Systems from Japan.
Lines using Erema and Polymetrix equipment
On March 24, the CEP approved five different applications to use a PET recycling process using both Erema and Polymetrix technologies.
The system starts with the Erema Basic process (described above), but with the combined system, once the recycled pellets are crystallized and fed to Polymetrix’s solid state polycondensation (SSP) lean reactor, where they are preheated and fed continuously into a countercurrent reactor. In the reactor, they are exposed to a high temperature and a nitrogen flow under vacuum.
The CEP approved applications from PET Verpackungen Deutschland from Germany, RCS Plastics from Germany, ROXANE NORD (ROXPET CENTRE) from France, World PET Plastic Recycling from Portugal and Société Générale de Recyclage (SGR) from France.
On March 24, 2022, CEP approved four proposals to use NGR technology to produce RPET for food and beverage packaging.
In the NGR process, the washed and dried flakes are further dried under high temperature and gas flow. Then the flakes are melted in an extruder and the melt is fed to a reactor, where the plastic is decontaminated by melt polycondensation at high temperature and under vacuum. The melt is then cooled and granulated.
The panel approved applications from Indorama Ventures Recycling Verdun from France, rPET InWaste from the Czech Republic, Wellman Neufchâteau Recyclage from France and 3R from Italy.
On November 26, 2021, CEP approved three applications to use Polymetrix technology to produce RPET pellets. In this process, the washed and dried flakes are introduced into an extruder without ventilation and under atmospheric pressure. There, the melt is filtered and the plastic is extruded and granulated. The granules are introduced into a reactor, where they are crystallized. The crystallized pellets are then brought to the temperature of the SPP reactor and packaged. Finally, the crystallized pellets are introduced into a reactor where they are exposed to high heat and a flow of inert gas for a certain time (two different conditions of temperature and exposure time can be used). .
The panel approved applications for use of this process from NOVAPET from Spain, LuxPET from Luxembourg and MOPET from Germany.
On three separate dates, the panel approved a number of applications to use Starlinger technologies to produce RPET for food and beverage packaging.
In the Starlinger iV+ process, the washed and dried flakes are crystallized in a high temperature reactor before being fed into an extruder, where they are melted, extruded and granulated. The pellets are then crystallized at high temperature in a reactor. Finally, the crystallized pellets are preheated in a reactor before being introduced into an SSP reactor, where they are then exposed to high temperature.
On January 27, 2022, the CEP approved a request to use the process from Veolia Beteiligungsgesellschaft of Germany. Earlier, on November 26, 2021, the panel approved submissions from Ferrarelle from Italy, Biffa Waste Services from the UK, DENTIS Recycling from Italy, Resinas del Ecuador from Ecuador, OMT Recycling Project from Spain, Srichakra Polyplast from India and Circular Plastics Australia from Australia.
Several technologies for different approved polymers
The October 28, 2021 panel approved a request from deSter of Belgium to use the company’s recycling process to recycle food and beverages provided to passengers on flights. The process would recycle items such as cutlery, salad bowls and coffee cups made of PP, PET, styrene acrylonitrile (SAN) resin or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Items include reusable tableware for catering.
In the recycling process, the washed items are ground and injection molded or extruded/thermoformed into new catering products for use during flights. Plastic could be used to produce 100% recycled content items, or recycled plastic could be mixed with virgin plastic.
The panel decided that the recycling process produces safe recycled plastic for a number of reasons, including that deSter “only uses materials and articles intended for food contact and ensures that any contamination can be excluded, since the input comes from this loop of products managed in a closed and controlled chain.
The November 24, 2021 panel approved a request from Mälarplast of Sweden to recycle polycyclohexylene dimethylene terephthalate glycol (PCTG) modified sheets, which are used to make reusable canteens for use in schools, aged care facilities and the restaurants.
The company proposes to use a process called Green Loop System to recycle end-of-life plates. This recycling process consists of washing the sheets, crushing them, drying the material and injecting the regrind into 100% recycled sheets.
Just like with the deSter app (above), the panel decided that the Green Loop system is safe because it uses a “closed and controlled chain”.
Recycling request for HDPE caps rejected
Finally, on November 24, 2021, the panel rejected an application by PET to PET Recycling Österreich of Austria to use Starlinger recoSTAR HDPE (FC 1) technology to recycle HDPE. PET to PET Recycling Österreich is owned by Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company Austria, Egger Getränke, Rauch Fruchtsäfte, Spitz and Vöslauer Mineralwasser, and it is the only PET recycling plant operated by the Austrian beverage industry.
The request was to recycle HDPE caps from PET bottles into new beverage container caps. Collectors separate corks from PET in floating tanks.
In the recycling process, the caps would be shredded and dried in a high temperature reactor, then the flakes would be continuously extruded and melt filtered. The melt is then extruded under vacuum degassing. Finally, the melt is granulated.
The CEP determined that important information was missing and that there were inconsistencies in the submission.
“Based on the information submitted to EFSA, the applicant has not demonstrated in a properly performed challenge test or other appropriate evidence that the recycling process is capable of reducing contamination of HDPE flakes from PET beverage bottle closures at a concentration that poses no risk to human health,” the panel concluded.