LINPAC Packaging, Europe’s leading multi-material food packaging manufacturer and a leading pioneer of the use of recycled plastics in packaging, has welcomed the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) decision to give an official positive opinion regarding the super-cleaning process used in its factories in Spain, Italy, and Germany.
In a report published by EFSA its authors confirmed the critical steps of the decontamination process LINPAC uses for its post-consumer PET produces a recycled product that does “not give rise to concern for a risk to human health”, even when used with 100% rPET.
Alan Davey, director of innovation at LINPAC Packaging, said: “The European Food Safety Authority’s decision has to be welcome by the entire plastic packaging and recycling industries as it means that much more PET can now be recycled further benefiting the environment and sustainability agenda set out by many European governments and global environment agencies.”
LINPAC Packaging said it has invested more than £8m in its in-house super cleaning technology during the past six years to give customers peace of mind as the trend towards the use of recycled plastics in food packaging grows.
It has made significant investments in high pressure, high temperature cleaning systems at its sites around the globe so customers can be confident that the recyclate used in the manufacture of its rPET trays is free from contamination and suitable for contact with food.
Retailers and consumers are driving growth in the rPET market with demand for packaging which has strong environmental credentials; rPET is easily recycled and reduces carbon footprint by up to 70% when compared to virgin PET. LINPAC has responded to this trend by developing a wide range of products which contain between 50 and 95% recyclate, including its new preformed rigid trays for vacuum skin packing applications and Rfresh Elite®, a novel tray for meat and poultry which uses a unique, patented sealant on the tray flange to create a secure seal with the lidding film and thus removing the need for a PE base film.
Davey said: “The challenge for plastics processors supplying the food industry is ensuring that the recycled plastic is suitable for food use and free from contamination. Our in-house super cleaning technology, which is fully compliant to European regulations, and is now successfully vetted by EFSA’s technical committee, means that we do not have to rely on third party suppliers for that guarantee. Furthermore, we carry out migration and extraction testing regularly to ensure that our processes are not only meeting but exceeding food safety standards with packs utilising 100% rPET.”
The main alternative to the in-house system applied by LINPAC Packaging to achieve food contact credentials is ABA co-extrusion – where PET virgin capping layers sandwich non-food grade rPET material.
Davey added: “Our in-house system removes the risks associated with ABA functional barrier structures such as thinning or rupturing of the layers during sheet processing. This functional barrier process is never really challenged by regulatory powers to demonstrate its effectiveness and that lack of a rigorous test regime means that we have to depend on a virtuous approach by converters that use it. Unless the ‘functional barrier’ is also backed up by super cleaning of the core recycled material in the central layer it cannot be guaranteed to be food safe.”
On the other hand, the super cleaning technology at LINPAC is tested by the use of surrogate chemicals that mimic all potential types of contamination and there is no risk of thinning or rupture of a capping layer and therefore no risk of migration during manufacture or storage. “The entire structure is food safe, visible, controlled and challenged,” said Davey.