Axion has said that setting minimum targets for recycled content in food packaging could lead to less efficient use of resource if material types and their applications are not carefully considered.
According to Axion head of circular economy Richard McKinlay, it is widely known that to make recycling viable, an end market ‘pull-effect’ is needed to create the demand for recycled material and setting minimum recycled content targets is one way to generate this demand.
However, he said this approach could be counter-productive in areas such as polypropylene (PP) food packaging, as the technology and infrastructure are not available to produce food grade recycled PP from post-consumer household packaging.
If minimum targets are implemented on PP, in the short-term, manufactures would have to move from PP to PET, he added.
The circular economy head argued that this presents an issue with PET in pots, tubs and trays, as studies show that lower quality of PET recycled from these products make it unsuitable for many end-use applications.
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He said that established markets for recycled PP already exist, and these markets can more easily increase recycled content than in packaging applications.
In the short-term he believes that brands, retailers and convertors should be able to continue using PP without recycled content and given the challenges of including recycled content in flexible packaging, a minimum target would be a step back.
He suggests that a circular economy approach should be encouraged, where virgin polymer is used in food packaging, which is then recycled into non-food packaging and other long-life products