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New EU Regulation (EU) 2022/1616 - Recycled plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with foods

The EU has set ambitious targets as part of the "Green Deal". Among other things, a 50% reduction in food waste per capita at retail and consumer level is to be achieved by 2030. If waste cannot be avoided, at least its economic value should be recovered. The Commission's goal is also for packaging to be reusable or recyclable in an economically viable manner by 2030.

Materials and articles made partly or entirely from recycled plastic that come into contact with food can only be used if they have undergone a safety assessment by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority)  and have been authorised by the European Commission. European Regulation (EC) No. 282/2008 previously laid down the rules for the authorisation of processes for the recycling of such materials. However, the regulation was not applicable to all recycling technologies.

The new Regulation (EU) 2022/ 1616 replaces the previous Plastics Recycling Regulation (EC) No. 282/2008. The primary objective of the new regulation is to ensure the safety of food in packaging made from recycled plastic. The new regulation applies to all types of recycled plastic and recycling technologies, including mechanical PET recycling, recycling from product loops which are in a closed and controlled chain, the use of recycled plastic behind a functional barrier and forms of chemical recycling. New rules apply to novel recycling technologies and the assessment of recycling processes. It also establishes a Union register of technologies, recyclers, recycling processes, recycling systems and decontamination facilities. The regulation entered into force October 10, 2022. After the entry into force, further regulations will apply.

From July 2023, only plastics containing recycled plastic produced with an appropriate recycling technology may be placed on the market, unless produced with a new type of technology and in accordance with Chapter IV of the regulation.

As of October 10, 2024, third-party quality assurance systems must be certified to control plastic waste during collection and pre-processing.

Food packaging with a recycled content must comply with Regulation (EU) No. 10/2011 on plastic materials and articles. Regulation (EU) No. 10/2011 on plastic materials and articles contains rules on the composition of such plastics, including a list of substances that have undergone a risk assessment by EFSA or its predecessor organization and that are authorised for the manufacture of plastics. It also regulates the migration limits of certain substances from the plastic into the food. Recital (16) of Regulation (EU) 2022/1616 explicitly states that the same level of safety should be ensured for recycled plastic materials and articles. To achieve this, they should have the same composition as plastics manufactured in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 10/2011 and comply with the restrictions and specifications set out in that regulation, such as migration limits.

Further useful information is available at the following link which refers to the Q&A already published by the Commission on the new Regulation.

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