EFSA publishes guidelines on recycled plastics

Following a  public consultation , EFSA’s Scientific Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food (AFC) has today published guidelines for applicants for the safety evaluation of recycled plastics to be used in contact with food. 

The new European regulation on plastics (EC No 282/2008) requires that recycled plastics used in contact with food should only be obtained from processes which have been assessed for safety by EFSA. EFSA will evaluate the safety of mechanical recycling and of manufacturing methods, where collected plastics are ground into small pieces, decontaminated and processed into new materials.

On 29 January 2008 the AFC Panel published draft guidelines and launched a public consultation inviting the scientific community and stakeholders to comment. During the two month consultation, EFSA received over 40 questions and comments from individual scientists and from organisations. These comments were considered during the finalisation of the guidelines. A report on the public consultation is available with the guidelines.

The authorisation process introduced by the new regulation aims to limit potential food contamination with chemicals migrating from packaging to food. Collected plastics used in mechanical recycling could be contaminated with chemicals that are not suitable for food contact applications. In its safety assessment of applications for the use of recycled plastics, EFSA will take into account the quality of the input materials, the efficiency of the process to decontaminate the plastics and the intended use of the recycled plastic.

Following the publication of the guidelines applications will be submitted to EFSA for evaluation. Once EFSA has evaluated recycling processes, EFSA’s opinions will be forwarded to the European Commission which is responsible for authorising these and upon authorisation, they will be added to the Register of authorised recycling processes.

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