Polyolefin Recyclates

Use of polyolefin recyclates in food packaging – possibilities and limits

Workgroup: Compliance of packaging material

Research Partner and Scientific Partner:

  1. Fraunhofer-Institut für Verfahrenstechnik und Verpackung IVV Freising, Dr. Frank Welle

Financing: BMWK
Laufzeit: 2023 – 2024

The EU Commission wants to promote the circular economy. This also includes the increased use of post-consumer recyclates in food packaging. However, packaging containing recyclates must be safe, just like packaging made from virgin materials. According to the new Recycling Regulation 2022/1616, the approval of post-consumer recyclates in food packaging is subject to the EU Commission and the national authorities, which include the evaluation of the European Food Safety Authority EFSA in their decision. However, EFSA’s evaluation criteria are very strict and usually require the use of "super-clean" recycling processes or so-called functional barriers. Super-clean recycling processes significantly reduce the concentration of critical substances in post-consumer recyclates, while functional barriers reduce the transfer of critical substances (migration) from the recyclate-containing packaging into the food. The strict EFSA criteria could so far only be achieved on a large scale with the low-diffusive packaging material PET. The highly diffusive post-consumer polyolefin recyclates are currently not approved for use in food packaging.

However, the ambitious goals of the EU Commission on the circular economy can only be achieved if post-consumer polyolefins are also reused in food packaging. This results in the objectives of the IVLV project: Based on the EFSA evaluation criteria applied so far, the requirements for polyolefin recyclates, their recycling processes and the efficiencies of functional barriers are to be derived. The project results should also provide the basis for a discussion and possibly answers to the question how much worst-case is necessary to sufficiently protect the consumer.