Recovered and recycled PET has to comply with all the rules and regulations that apply to virgin materials. The health and safety of the consumer is of prime importance when considering reuse and recycling of plastics, or any materials in food contact uses.

One particular physical property of PET makes it much more suitable than other plastic materials for use as a recovered, recycled material. This is its low diffusion coefficient. Since this is about a factor of 100 lower than some other materials, this means that it is correspondingly more difficult for contaminants to diffuse into or out of PET.

There is no EU legislation in current operation that deal specifically with this topic. Most plastic regulations neither preclude nor allow the use of recycled plastics in food contact applications. However, there are exceptions and some national regulations forbid the use of recycled plastics in food contact applications. Any plans to use recycled plastics should be congruent with the regulations currently in force nationally and may require consultation with the relevant authorities.

The first results of detailed research work to define the safe boundaries and limitations of such use were available in December 1997, and the findings are likely to form the basis of any EU legislation seen as necessary. The reader can consult another ILSI Europe report, “Recycling of Plastics for Food Contact Use” [19] that deals specifically with this issue and contains guidelines for recycling of plastics for food contact applications.

In relation to re-use of bottles, detailed studies have been completed investigating all the health, safety and environmental aspects of using PET in refillable systems. The reader is referred to two references in particular which define, describe and review all the procedures involved. A Code of Practice has been developed for application to refillable bottles, which will ensure maximum product safety, and encourage complete acceptance by the consumer.

A healthy recycling industry has been formed around PET. Since it can be recycled by a variety of processes, it can be used as a disposable, recoverable packaging or as a refillable packaging.