BELGIUM – Styrenics Circular Solutions (SCS), the value chain initiative to realize the circular economy for styrenic polymers, has filed its second application for the European Union (EU) authorization of mechanically recycled polystyrene (rPS) as food contact material.

SCS now has two submissions to be assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Both cover the same multiple end-consumer applications, including yoghurt pots, hot and cold beverage containers and food trays.

However, they are based on two different super-cleaning technologies as part of PET-like food contact mechanical recycling processes. The rPS content in end-consumer applications can range up to 100%.

Jens Kathmann, Secretary-General of SCS, commented that the submission of this second application for a different super-cleaning technology underlines their confidence in the safety of rPS as food contact material.

He said the expansion of the technological base is important to give investors in food grade mechanical recycling facilities a choice.

“Now we already have two proven super-cleaning technologies and we are convinced that several other suitable technologies will follow. This is fully in line with the broader SCS strategy to embrace multiple technologies to accelerate achieving the circular economy for styrenics and our contribution to the EU recycling targets.

“We look forward to positive opinions of EFSA, both on our earlier submission and eventually this application,” he added.

The scientific dossier by Fraunhofer IVV for this second application follows several successful challenge tests performed with the super-cleaning technology of plastic recycling machine manufacturer Gneuss.

The process consistently delivered a recycled polymer with excellent purity, based on post-consumer food packaging waste.

The results were delivered by Gneuss’ Multi Rotation System (MRS) jump extrusion process that enables highly efficient super-cleaning based on high vacuum, high surface and melt temperature.

rPS meets purity requirements

Fraunhofer IVV confirmed the excellent cleaning efficiency demonstrated in the challenge tests. This technology already has an established track record in Japan, where Gneuss has provided FDA approved super-cleaning for food contact mechanical recycling of food trays since 2017.

Dr Constanze Hirschhaeuser, Vice President Quality, HSE & Sustainability of PACCOR Packaging GmbH, one of SCS’ converter members, informed that this second scientific dossier by Fraunhofer IVV and application for EU authorization is very welcome news by the polystyrene value chain, confirming once again that rPS meets the strict purity requirements for food contact materials.

“We firmly believe that recycled polystyrene is a drop-in solution, behaving exactly like virgin in production and it retains all of the excellent qualities of polystyrene, with an added circular credential. The future availability of rPS will allow us to offer a range of tailored solutions to best suit our customers,” he said.

PET-like high purity mechanical recycling is one of the multiple plastic-to-plastic recycling options available for polystyrene next to dissolution and depolymerization, according to PR Newswire.

Polystyrene benefits from the same inherent low-diffusion characteristic as PET, which enables mechanical recycling to food grade standards.

While the European Commission has recently presented a draft new regulation on recycled plastics intended to come into contact with foods, SCS is confident that the underlying criteria developed by EFSA to assess the safety of recycling processes remain valid. For SCS’ first application, EFSA has set its risk assessment deadline on 23 March 2022.

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