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Scientific Opinion on the safety assessment of the processes ‘Biffa Polymers’ and ‘CLRrHDPE’ used to recycle high-density polyethylene bottles for use as food contact material

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This scientific opinion of the EFSA Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF Panel) deals with the safety assessment of the recycling processes ‘CLRrHDPE’ and ‘Biffa Polymers’. These processes are used to recycle post-consumer high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bottles which have been in contact with food, mainly milk, to produce recycled HDPE pellets. Post-consumer HDPE bottles are collected in the United Kingdom and processed by conventional recycling including manual sorting into washed and dried HDPE flakes containing no more than 1 % HDPE from non-food consumer applications. The washed and dried HDPE flakes are heated in two successive continuous reactors under vacuum before being extruded under vacuum into pellets. Recycled pellets are blended with virgin HDPE to produce bottles (both processes) and with virgin polypropylene to produce trays (Biffa Polymers). Bottles are intended for storage of milk and fruit juices. Trays are intended for storage of animal products and raw fruits, vegetables and mushrooms. Having examined the challenge tests provided, the Panel noted the limited decontamination efficiency under the conditions of testing and concluded that the processes do not satisfy criteria set for HDPE. Uncertainties and consequent conservatism of the selected criteria could allow the conclusion that a process is safe when these criteria are met but not when they are not met. Therefore, the CEF Panel considered that, for the manufacture of recycled bottles for milks and fruit juices and trays for animal products, additional data should be provided before it can conclude on the safety assessment. For the manufacture of recycled trays intended for contact with whole fruits and vegetables including mushrooms, at room temperature or below, the CEF Panel concluded that recycled HDPE obtained from the process Biffa Polymers is not considered of safety concern under the restriction given in the opinion.