AARC Webinar Shines Spotlight on Use of Recycled Plastic in Food & Beverage Packaging

Experts discuss the integration of recycled content in packaging, addressing regulatory challenges and advancing sustainable practices in the industry.

The Action Alliance for Recycling Beverage Cartons (AARC) recently hosted a significant webinar titled “Use of Recycled Plastic Content in Food & Beverage Packaging.” This event brought together a diverse group of industry leaders, regulatory bodies, sustainability experts, and environmental advocates from various countries. The webinar’s focus was particularly relevant due to the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Guidelines, which mandate the incorporation of recycled plastic in packaging.

The event featured an impressive panel of speakers, including Surojit Bose, Head of Sustainability at Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd.; Aditi Ramola, Technical Director at the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA); K D Bhardwaj, Group Head of Environment and Energy Management at the National Productivity Council; José Manuel Moller, Founder and Chairman of Algramo; Nikhil Patkar, Packaging Portfolio Manager at Tetra Pak South Asia; Valeria Branca, Project Manager at the Extended Producer Responsibility Alliance; Levent Akici from the Zero Waste Foundation, Turkey; and Dr. Praveen Aggarwal, CEO of AARC.

In collaboration with the United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD), the United Nations Global Compact Network India, the International Academy of Environmental Sanitation and Public Health (IAESPH), and the 3R WASTE Foundation, the webinar aimed to foster dialogue on the recyclability of plastic packaging, focusing on the use of recycled plastics. The event served as a platform for sharing best practices, exploring innovative recycling methods, and discussing cutting-edge solutions in plastic packaging.

Moderated by Dr. Kulwant Singh, CEO of the 3R Waste Foundation, and co-moderated by Dr. N B Mazumdar, Hon. Chairman of IAESPH, the webinar facilitated an insightful discussion on successful international strategies for integrating recycled content into packaging. Speakers highlighted the challenges in sourcing and utilizing recycled materials and proposed practical solutions like chemical recycling, drawing on global experiences. The necessity of chemical recycling processes and mass balance approaches for validating recycled content to meet EPR targets was also discussed.

Mr. Nikhil Patkar elaborated on the chemical recycling process, explaining how collected recycled material is converted into pyrolysis oil, which is then used to produce polyethylene granules. This process, blending recycled and virgin oil, is approved by EFSA and the USFDA.

Ms. Valeria Branca shed light on European Union regulations, stating that by January 1, 2030, packaging will only be allowed on the EU market if it is recyclable within grades A, B, or C. She also highlighted EU regulations mandating minimum percentages of recycled content in plastic packaging, aiming to boost the market for recycled materials in Europe by 2030 and 2040.

Dr. Praveen Aggarwal concluded the event by emphasizing the importance of managing plastic waste in compliance with FSSAI regulations, ensuring the safety of recycled plastic content in food and beverage products, and consulting the entire value chain before setting standards. He called for expedited formulation of standards for the use of recycled plastics and expressed gratitude to all participants for their active involvement.

Notably, a recent study highlighted that India recycles only 8 percent of its plastic waste, a figure expected to marginally increase to 11 percent by 2035 if current practices continue. This study, part of a report titled “The National Circular Economy Roadmap for Reducing Plastic Waste in India,” was prepared by leading research organizations from India and Australia, including CSIRO, TERI, CSIR-NEERI, Development Alternatives, the University of New South Wales, and the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures.