PET, a safe material for the food industry

Europe has opted for the use of recycled plastic in food because of the significant advantages it brings to both consumers and companies.

The European Union (EU) is relying on recycled plastic packaging to ensure safety in the food industry. This was one of the milestones set by the European Commission when it launched the new continental strategy for regulating food packaging in 2018

Why is PET the safest material for food packaging?

Polyethylene terephthalate or polyethylene terephthalate, the material that makes up PET containers, is very popular in the food industry due to the important advantages it offers, such as:

  • Its resistance to abrasion and possible breakage.
  • Its lightness and flexibility.
  • The chemical and thermal consistency it withstands.
  • It prevents external agents from damaging the flavor or spoiling the food.
  • It is easy to clean.
  • Thanks to its transparency, it is possible to see which products are inside the PET containers.

PET can be found in all kinds of everyday items related to food consumption, such as bottles, trays, jars, cups or tuppers. In addition to the above-mentioned advantages, it also brings other benefits for the producing companies:

  • Implies a significantly lower production cost than other materials, which also means less water and energy consumption.
  • Reduced environmental impact due to the use of resources while giving the plastic a new useful life, helping to avoid generating plastic waste that can end up affecting ecosystems.
  • Thanks to its light weight, it also reduces fuel consumption and travel time, which is essential for logistics deliveries in segments such as food chains or catering companies.
  • A significant reduction in costs for companies, which ultimately translates into greater profitability, while sending a message to society of commitment to sustainability.

Other articles of interest:  The main uses of PET, the king of plastic materials

Ensuring health and securing production

For years, the EU has been committed to a strategy that promotes the use of recycled plastic in different industries, such as the automotive, pharmaceutical and textile. To achieve this, among other milestones, initiatives were developed to stimulate the production of recycled plastic (it is estimated that the volume of recycled plastic marketed in Europe in 2025 will increase to 10 million tons) while guaranteeing the quality of each container, especially in the recycling process, to avoid any possibility of contamination. The main body responsible for ensuring the safety of all food packaging in Europe is the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), whose basic task is to analyze and provide specific guidelines for the use of each type of packaging for the preservation and distribution of food.

The EU has stimulated the production of recycled plastic and its use in a wide range of industries

In this regard, it is worth highlighting the continuous work of companies such as REPETCO in improving innovation and the safety of recycling procedures. The company has been able to develop its own patented, environmentally friendly system for multilayer PET/PE food packaging. Through a unique process, rPET pellets and rPET are generated that can be reused in the food industry with multilayer PET/PE trays and sheet packaging; in bottles for soft drinks or detergents; and in fibers for the textile and automotive industry.

One of the challenges in Europe is to consolidate production to meet the growing demand for PET packaging in many economic sectors. This is stated, for example, in the report: ‘r-PET: The best solution to ensure the circularity of packaging’, prepared by the Innovation and Development Center for the Circular Economy (CIDEC), which points out that in countries like Spain there is a significant mismatch between supply and demand for food PET. Focusing only on the segment of bottles, the study estimates that the economy today needs 54 kilotons (kt) of this material but with the currently installed production capacity barely reaches 35 kt.

One of the challenges in Europe is to consolidate PET container production to meet growing demand

To balance this situation, in addition to improving recycling systems to increase the volume of material reaching recycling plants, the document points out that public support is essential. In this regard, it is worth highlighting the Circular Economy Action Plan, promoted by the Ministry of Ecological Transition, which includes waste management as one of its priority lines of action. At the European level, calls for proposals are being launched regularly to finance projects that encourage cleaner and more circular business models in key materials such as plastics and plastics-based products.

Other articles of interest: Upcycling: What is super food recycling?


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