EU: Papermakers grapple with food contamination concerns
Posted: January 25th, 2011 - 2:01pm
With new European legislation governing food contact with plastics issued earlier this month by the European Commission, the paper industry is keenly following potential developments regarding waste food and contact with cardboard.
Discussions have continued for many years at European Union level within the paper industry and other bodies over whether it is safe to recycle cardboard which may have had food or other contamination on it. This is because the recovered cellulose fibres are used to make new board which could come then into contact with food and potentially transfer contaminants.
The issue is fundamental to collection systems and in particular those used in the UK where there is a growing trend towards commingled collection, as well as a lack of emphasis on ensuring low amounts of contamination.
Now, the issue is causing sharp discussion within the different sectors of the UK's Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) in Swindon, where David Workman is chief executive. The confederation has members primarily made up by the cardboard and newspaper recycling sectors.
Newsprint mills, which use waste newspapers and magazines as feedstock, are using some material sourced from materials recycling facilities (MRFs) and are also developing their own MRFs or sorting lines. Newsprint manufacturer UPM Shotton's new MRF is a prime example of this, while paper manufacturer SCA also has its own MRF in Southampton. Some critics consider that MRFs can see residual waste contaminating materials such as paper and card.
In contrast, the board sector, including DS Smith which owns Severnside Recycling, is more reticent about using material from MRFs as it has concerns about food contamination. The company's concerns are understood to have been aired within recent CPI meetings.
Speaking to letsrecycle.com, the CPI's David Workman said: "the issue of food contamination and board production has been recently raised in Europe. It does need a scientific assessment as to the effects on human health as it is something that hasn't been proved as an issue or as not an issue."