Beyond mechanical recycling: Exploring new ways to recycle

Published: 31/03/2020

To be able to play its role in achieving these goals, the food and drink industry needs to be able to rely on regular supply streams of high-quality recycled plastic materials which can be used in contact with food. Unfortunately, recycled materials meeting the technical and legal requirements for use in contact with food is not widely available, either in terms of quantity of supply or economic cost. Moreover, not all plastic waste collected today is recycled. In 2016, only around 30% of collected plastic waste got converted into secondary raw materials.

In this context, there is a need to develop new technologies to recycle plastics, going beyond the limitations of mechanical recycling which can mainly be used for PET and HDPE and provide limited supply. This requires investing into R&D and innovation, developing adequate framework conditions, and above all, ensuring that the recycled materials and articles are safe for use in contact with food. While research and innovation should certainly not be limited to specific innovative technologies, chemical recycling processes already present opportunities which are worth exploring further.

This paper presents the preliminary views of the food and drink industry on exploring new ways to recycle plastic materials with a view to move towards a circular, sustainable use of plastic packaging for food and drink products. A close up on chemical recycling is provided in the annex.