EU regulations on packaging of recycled plastics and food packaging

November 22, 2023

        On September 20, 2022, the European Commission approved and published Regulation (EU) 2022/1616 on recycled plastic materials and articles for food contact and repealed Regulation (EC) No 282/2008. The new regulations will take effect on October 10, 2022.

        This regulation sets out rules regarding:

        Recycled plastic materials and articles that come into contact with food are placed on the market (i.e. plastic materials and articles within the scope of Article 1(2) of Framework Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 on Food Contact Materials (FCMs)) and they contain plastics derived from waste plastic, or plastic made from waste);

        Development and operation of recycling technologies, processes and installations for the production of recycled plastic materials for food contact;

        Use or intended use of recycled plastic materials and articles that come into contact with food

        Requirements for recycled plastic materials and articles:

        Comply with Chapter II (composition requirements), Chapter III (specific requirements for certain materials and articles) and Chapter V (migration limit requirements) of the Plastics Food Contact Regulation (EU) No 10/2011; Manufactured using "suitable recycling technology" listed in Appendix I of this Regulation, or using "novel technology" described in Chapter IV of this Regulation;

        The manufacture of this recycled plastic is registered on the Union register, and the status of the authorized regeneration process for this manufacturing is not "suspended" or "revoked".

        The regulations have detailed requirements for manufacturing processes using “suitable regeneration technologies” and for manufacturing processes using “novel regeneration technologies”.

        Currently, there are two specific “suitable regeneration technologies” listed in Appendix I, namely:

        (1) Physical recycling of post-consumer PET (post-consumer mechanical PET recycling)

        (2) Closed-loop controlled regeneration (recycling from product loops which are in a closed and controlled chain). Each individual process of the former must be authorized, but does not require a recycling scheme. The latter does not require authorization for each individual process, but does require a regeneration plan.

        At the same time, the primary purpose of the new EU packaging rules is to curb the growing problem of plastic packaging waste. The proposal will be considered by the Council of the European Parliament in accordance with ordinary legislative procedures.

        According to statistics, each European produces nearly 180 kilograms of packaging waste every year. If no action is taken, packaging waste in the EU will further increase by 19% by 2030, and plastic packaging waste will even increase by 46%.

        The overall objective of the proposal is to reduce the negative impact of packaging and packaging waste on the environment, improve the functioning of the internal market and thus increase the efficiency of the industry, create a well-functioning market for secondary raw materials (recycled materials), through a mandatory recycling ratio Aim to increase the use of recycled plastic in packaging. Specifically:

        1. The overall goal is to reduce the packaging waste generated per capita by 15% in each member state by 2040 compared with 2018. Reducing overall waste in the EU by approximately 37% without changing legislation. This will be achieved through reuse and recycling.

        2. To promote packaging reuse or refill, which has declined sharply over the past 20 years, companies must offer consumers a certain proportion of their products in reusable or refillable packaging, such as takeaway drinks and meals or e-commerce delivery. There will also be some standardization of packaging methods and clear marking of reusable packaging.

        3. To address the problem of obviously unnecessary packaging, certain forms of packaging will be banned, such as single-use packaging of food and beverages consumed in restaurants and cafes, single-use packaging of fruits and vegetables, micro shampoo bottles and Other micro packages for hotels.

        4. Many measures aim to make packaging fully recyclable by 2030. This includes setting packaging design standards; establishing a mandatory deposit return system for plastic bottles and aluminum cans; clarifying which very limited packaging must be compostable so that consumers can throw it away in biowaste.

        5. In addition, the regulation also stipulates the minimum recycled content in recyclable packaging and plastic packaging. Producers must also include a mandatory ratio of recycled content in new plastic packaging. The specific provisions are as follows:

        For the minimum recycled content in plastic packaging, regulations stipulate:

        From January 1, 2030, plastic components in packaging should contain the following minimum percentages of recycled content recovered from post-consumer plastic waste. Per unit of packaging:

        (a) 30% for contact-sensitive packaging mainly composed of polyethylene terephthalate (PET);

        (b) 10% for contact-sensitive packaging made of plastic materials other than PET, except for single-use plastic beverage bottles;

        (c) Disposable plastic beverage bottles 30%;

        (d) Except for packaging mentioned in (a), (b) and (c), 35%.

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