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09-16-2013

rPET: Authorizing Recycling Processes in Europe and the US

Figure: Starlinger viscotec

Austrian company Starlinger viscotec has launched the new viscoSHEET line. In combination with the decontamination drier deCON, PET sheet out of 100% recycled material for direct food contact can be produced.

European Commission and US FDA have developed concrete guidelines for the production of food contact materials made of rPET. Their common denominator is that the recycling process for rPET for direct food contact shall have an approval, yet their approaches are different: Whereas FDA guidelines should be viewed as recommendations and refer to the recycling technology, the European system establishes legally enforceable responsibilities and focuses on the recycling company. This has, of course, a big influence on the recycler. Starlinger viscotec provides extensive support with (multi)national food approvals.

In the US, a recycler using a super-clean recycling technology like the deCON for flakes super-cleaning or Starlinger iV+ for bottle-to-bottle recycling does not have to request approval for these processes because Starlinger has already got LNOs (Letter of Non Objection) for them. As long as the recycler follows the conditions laid down in the LNO, sticks to the process parameters and works in accordance with GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) he can produce “FDA approved” food grade material.

In Europe, the situation is a bit more complex. Each recycler who manufactures food contact materials with post-consumer PET for direct food contact needs his own process approval – whatever technology he is using. For this purpose, it is mandatory that the recycler submits a petition to EFSA. There are approx. 100 petitions pending to be evaluated. So far, European Commission has not authorized any recycling process. Only few – the Starlinger iV+ process for bottle-to-bottle recycling among them – have already got a Positive Opinion from EFSA, which is the basis for authorization. Acc. to European Commission, first authorizations are expected to be published in the third quarter of 2014. From then on, only rPET that has been manufactured by an authorized recycling process is allowed to be used for direct food contact.

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