Food contact materials and articles (FCM) are playing a central role in the objectives of the European Commission to support the EU Green Deal and the Circular Economy Action Plan.

Food Contact Materials

It is noteworthy that after more than a decade of backlog, a major EU development, "Commission Regulation (EU) 2022/1616 on recycled plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food" entered into force on 10 October 2022, repealing Regulation (EC) No 282/2008. The new regulation introduces new rules for recycled plastic food contact materials, including new control mechanisms designed to ensure plastics used as intake raw materials are sufficiently decontaminated during collection and recycling. Regulation 2022/1616 also establishes a new Union register of technologies, recyclers, recycling processes, recycling schemes, and decontamination installations.

From July 2023, only plastics containing recycled plastic manufactured with a "suitable" recycling technology may be placed on the market for food contact uses, unless manufactured using a novel technology. Suitable technologies are: post-consumer mechanical PET recycling (subject to authorization of the individual processes); and recycling from closed loops. From October 2024, quality assurances systems used to collect and pre-process plastic input will need to be certified by a third party.

However, as a clear sign of divergence between EU and UK regulatory requirements following Brexit, Regulation (EC) No 282/2008 remains applicable in the Great Britain market, as retained EU law.

Extended Producer Responsibility

The way UK organizations responsible for packaging (including food packaging) must carry out their recycling responsibilities has changed from January 2023. The new rules place responsibility on certain producers for the entire cost of recycling the packaging they place on the market, including the cost of collection, treatment, and recycling. Those businesses in scope may ultimately need to: collect/report data on the packaging they handle and supply; pay a waste management fee; continue to buy packaging waste recycling notes (PRNs) or packaging waste export recycling notes (PERNs) to meet recycling obligations; and report information about onward supply. It is anticipated that the changes will result in significantly higher compliance costs for some producers.

Single-use Plastics

One important recent development in the area of FCM relates to the regulation of (so called) single-use plastic materials and articles. The ban of various single-use "plastic" food items (the definition is highly debatable) are ongoing, with similar prohibitions coming into force in both markets (but without alignment on scope or timescales).

From July 2021 an EU-wide prohibition on the placing on the market of a wide selection of single-use plastic items came into force under the Single-use Plastics Directive.

The current position on single-use plastics in the UK is more complex. In Scotland a range of single-use items were banned from 1 June 2022. Similar bans were approved by the Welsh Senedd in December 2022. The UK Government remains behind the curve for England, but has confirmed (in January 2023) that it is set to ban single-use plastic items relating to takeaway food and drink in England (with legislation expected in October 2023).

In 2023 the EU is going to move forward as well, most likely introducing new amendments to existing laws (such as the 17thand possibly 18thAmendments - to the Plastics Regulation 10/2011) and/or replacing the existing legislation altogether.

This is surely a year to watch for companies concerned with placing materials and articles in food contact applications on the market, whether they are made from plastics or other materials, whether they are virgin or recycled, and whether the relevant market is the EU or the UK (or both).

To know more about developments in trade, sanctions, antitrust/competition, ESG, chemicals, insurance, and criminal investigations, read the full article here.

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