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Polypropylene recycling process backed by CEF

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By Joe Whitworth+

Last updated on 16-Jul-2014 at 12:20 GMT

CEF backed the Petra Polimeri process
CEF backed the Petra Polimeri process

A process to recycle polypropylene (PP) has been judged not to pose concern by the scientific opinion of a panel from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF) looked at PP trays and insert trays for use as a food contact material.

The process recycles polypropylene trays and inserts trays which have been used for the transport, storage and display of whole, fresh fruits and vegetables at room temperature or below.

Trays are returned by consumers and collected in specific containers at the point of sale and insert trays originate from a closed loop of distributors.

Post collection

After being sorted separately trays and/or insert trays are ground into flakes, which are washed, dried (step 1) and extruded into granules (step 2).

The insert tray used as part of the process

Recycled granules are checked against technical requirements on melt flow index, tensile strength at Yield, elongation at Yield, tensile modulus, flexural modulus, Impact strength, hardness, melting point, softening and heat deflection temperature and density.

They are mixed up to 30% with virgin PP to manufacture, by extrusion followed by thermoforming, new recycled trays (neutral or coloured) and insert trays (coloured) which are re-introduced in the distribution chain.

This recycled material is used up to 30% with virgin PP making up at least 70% to manufacture new trays and insert trays for transport, storage and display of whole, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Petra Polimeri application

The Ministero della Salute, Italy, requested the evaluation of the plastic recycling process from Petra Polimeri.

The applicant performs the washing, the grinding and the granulation (steps 1and 2).

Collection, sorting and transport of collected trays and insert trays before step 1 and the second extrusion and thermoforming of new articles after step 2 are carried out by other companies as parts of the recycling loop.

Sorting is manual by operators removing only trays and insert trays to be recycled and responding to the established requirement (positive sorting).

It allows separating PP or insert trays from other plastic or insert trays (e.g. in PET, PS) and from materials other than trays or insert trays (stretch film, label mainly in polyolefin and poly(vinylchloride))

Considering the high temperatures (220-250 °C) used in the extrusion of the flakes, the possibility of contamination by micro-organisms can be discounted, said the panel.

The panel said the management of input material is a critical process step, i.e. that the process (collection, sorting, recycling and distribution) is operated under a quality assurance system, including the use of specific labels intended to ensure traceability and control of the input

The dossier was submitted in February 2010, updated in March and July 2012, April and June 2014. Click here to read the scientific opinion .

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