The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has approved Melbourne, Australia-based Visy Recycling's process for recycling PET for food-contact packaging.
Visy Recycling is a unit of Melbourne-based Visy Industries Holdings Pty. Ltd.
Edward Kosior, Visy research and technology development manager, said the company's process takes mixed containers from curbside collection programs, separates, cleans and reprocesses the material to food-quality standards.
Gaining U.S. approval was part of the Australian regulatory process enforced by the Australia New Zealand Food Authority, Kosior said.
``Australian standards state that to use plastic in food containers, you must show that the materials do not contaminate food. The way to test that is to use U.S. or European standards,'' he said.
On June 1, the FDA gave Visy a letter of nonobjection that said Visy's recycled materials will not contaminate food.
``We can produce a PET drink bottle with recycled content and then take that bottle, reprocess it with our purification and molecular rebuilding technology and make it into another bottle without increasing the cost,'' Kosior said.
Visy collects post-consumer material and sends it to a recycling facility in Reservoir, Australia. The material is separated into paper, plastic and glass. Plastic products are delivered to Visy Plastics where they are separated into PET, PVC and high density polyethylene. Caps and labels are removed from the PET, which then goes through decontamination and extrusion processes and is turned into flakes and then pellets.
To gain FDA approval, Visy had to demonstrate its recycling process has adequate safety features and had to ensure contaminants are below 10 parts per billion.
``We were well below that and, in some cases, [contaminants] were undetectable.''
Kosior said the majority of recycled PET will be used by VisyPak, Visy's PET packaging division. VisyPak is the former Asia-Pacific packaging business of Melbourne-based Southcorp Ltd. Visy Industries bought the business in February.
Visy Recycling will launch a major drive in August to increase volumes from its PET curbside collections, Kosior said. Visy currently recycles 55 million pounds of PET in Australia each year.
``We would like to encourage people to recycle more PET and put more back into the recycling stream. About 75 percent of PET bottles nationally end up away from the recycling stream.''
Kosior said Visy will target office workers, encouraging them to take PET bottles home and put them in the recycling bin.