r-PET, Circular Economy

Packaging food safely: the often still difficult use of recycled materials

21/02/2024 | 2 min read
Florian Aschermayer

From dream to reality

From your own garden, freshly picked, washed, straight onto your bread, or into your mouth: the fantasy of how food is consumed rarely reflects the reality. In reality, our food comes into contact with many different products and materials from the fields to our plates – from harvesting and processing to packaging and preparation. How we store, transport, preserve, and ultimately consume our food has a decisive impact on its quality and safety. In Europe alone, well over 8,000 chemicals are used to produce and treat food packaging materials.1

Free Whitepaper

Download our free Whitepaper here and learn more about EFSA, its tasks and the new Regulation (EU) 2022/1616 and its impact

Laws and Regulations

The fact that food packaging can still be used safely is ensured – at least to a large extent – by laws and regulations at national and European levels. This remains the case even if the requirements and demands of society and industry change: recycled materials are increasingly being used in the packaging industry, and people are keen to have sustainable packaging whose materials are kept in circulation for as long as possible. This is why the new Regulation (EU) 2022/1616 was adopted in the European Union in 2022: its aim is to ensure the safety of food in packaging made from recycled plastic. This may sound simple, but its implementation is more complex for packaging companies than it seems. Comprehensive approval procedures, tests, the collection and evaluation of real-life data, and a review by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are among the steps required to establish a new technology or a new material on the market.  

“No matter which recycled material is involved – PP, PS, PET, PE – we are currently seeing exciting opportunities for development projects. The potential is there and many players are already experimenting.” 

Florian Aschermayer, Global Senior Expert Sustainable Material Excellence, Greiner Packaging

Nevertheless, the industry is driven by innovation: in addition to the material r-PET, which is already in use, tests are also being carried out with r-PP, r-PS, and r-PE. This raises questions about what the most efficient and accurate sorting processes are, about material properties, the differences between mechanical and chemical recycling, and the purity of waste streams. The entire supply chain is feeling the pressure to change the industry sustainably – from plastics processors and machine manufacturers to packaging producers and food manufacturers. This is why we are working together on new and innovative solutions that not only make food packaging made from different recycled materials possible, but also safe, efficient, and practical to handle. Want to find out more?

Free Whitepaper


Read our white paper to find out more about the role of EFSA, the new Regulation (EU) 2022/1616 and its implications, and the processes required for packaging materials to be approved for contact with food in the first place. We show why this often still presents certain hurdles for recycled materials such as r-PET and r-PP and why packaging companies are nevertheless optimistic about a sustainable future.

Download now!

1 https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12940-020-0572-5

Related articles