California-based EC02 Plastics said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) opinion letter deemed the recycling company’s cleaning process effective at reducing contaminants that result in a dietary concentration below 0.5 parts per billion - the threshold set by the US food safety agency.
Rod Rougelot, chief executive officer of EC02 Plastics, said the company received the highest level of approval in nine FDA condition of use categories.
He said the regulatory approval enables the company to supply packaging producers with RPET that is of purity suitable for use of up to 100 per cent recycled content of the packaging for ready-prepared foods that will be reheated in their container at temperatures exceeding 121°C or stored in a refrigerator or freezer.
Rougelot told FoodProductionDaily.com that the company’s approach sets it apart from competitors that deploy water-based recycling processes.
He said that, unlike other recyclers, EC02’s process eliminates the use of water for the cleaning of plastics through the use of a biosolvent that is FDA approved for use as a food additive in conjunction with liquid CO2 – a byproduct of power plant emissions – in a closed loop system that pours nothing down the drain.
“We are the only recycling company that can claim its plastic technology has a negligible impact on the environment and is distinguishable from existing technologies when it comes to water waste and chemical contamination,” said Rougelot.
He said that the RPET flake produced by ECO2 Plastics stands up on all fronts from a quality perspective when comparisons are drawn with product from other recyclers, but that the FDA validation now ensures its customers will have a high degree of confidence in the use of its flake for food contact purposes.
According to Rougelot, demand from food companies for RPET in their packaging far outstrips supply and the company, in response, is planning to open up facilities in other parts of the US as well as evaluating options for recycling sites in other geographies.
“While RPET does have some limitations in terms of throughput and discoloration, its cost effectives in and its green profile in comparison to virgin plastics mean food manufacturers, under pressure from green-aware consumers, have been encouraging their suppliers to increase the quantity of recycled content in containers,” said Rougelot.
He said that US food processors are also beginning to initiate recycling collection networks around PET packaging for food to increase the amount of feedstock that is available to produce RPET.