At present much food packaging is not recyclable and is therefore discarded into landfill. Most recycling efforts to date have focussed on materials such a paper, card, glass and metals whereas fresh food packaging is often based on non-recyclable plastic materials. In 1994 the EC passed a Directives for Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EEC). All Member States have consequently to recover and recycle a specified part of the packaging waste. As a result in many countries companies who produce packaging have to pay fees for a recovery and recycling system to collect and process packaging materials. These fees are dependent on the material and the amount of packaging put on the market. in contrast recyclable packaging materials will have a positive environmental effect and are much cheaper to dispose. These materials can be used in short-term packaging solutions designed for low temperature purposes. The European market for recyclable plastics is a young and growing, highly diverse and fragmented one. The high costs of research and development in the recyclable plastics market have been identified as a substantial risk to profitability. Consequently, it is essential that were there are on-going research activities, they should be coordinated and focus is also needed on recyclable food packaging which will ensure the development of safe and efficient packaging and processing technologies to maximise food quality and encourage eco-friendly practices.
The common scientific and technological objective of this network is to promote and optimise recyclable packaging for a range of food products to conform to current food packaging legislation. This will be done using existing and/or new materials. There exists a very wide range of food products, which must be stored and prepared in different conditions. While the network proposes to identify solutions for most of these, it is necessary to be realistic and set specific targets to be achieved within the network. The primary target will be recyclable packaging for the replacement of plastic food packaging trays, films and cartons currently used for eg frozen goods, refrigerated goods, microwave products, ready oven-cook foods, fast-food products, perishable products (raw meat, cooked meat, fish, dairy, vegetables and fruit etc.).
Network outputs will be:
- a report detailing the state-of the-art and the recommended packaging technology for different types of food to form the basis upon which industrial standards and future legislation will be based.
- a dissemination programme, to raise awareness on the importance and advantages of recycling food packaging. 3 workshops in Europe, 2 open days for operators active in the food packaging industry, a dedicated web page and the publication of articles to targeted groups.