BRUSSELS (Feb. 27, 11:30 a.m. ET) — The European plastics industry has broadly welcomed the results of reforms agreed just over a year ago on the European Union regulation covering plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food.
This Plastics Implementation Measure (PIM), as it is sometimes called, replaced the plastics directive that dates back to 2002. Directives offer EU member states more flexibility over implementing EU rules, whereas regulations have to be followed to the letter.
As well as altering the legal basis for EU action on food contact plastics, the new regulation also extended the scope of specific migration limits (SML) and changed the rules on migration testing. A notable change is that multi-layer plastics packaging, composed of more than one type of substrate, is now covered under the new regulation.
It will take time for the new system to become fully embedded, but soundings by European Plastics News suggest the greater regulatory clarity has been welcomed by industry.
“The change to a regulation rather than a directive is important for harmonization across Europe - it means that all countries now have the same rules, with no room for different interpretations by governments and that will greatly help free trade,” said Dario Dainelli, director of European regulatory affairs at Sealed Air Corp.
“We now have a single text where everything is in the same place and that's good, particularly for consolidation of lists of monomers, additives and other starting substances,” he said. He noted that companies need to keep an eye on technical amendments to the text (which has already been changed twice), but stressed this was normal. “We expect it to be amended at least once a year,” he said.
Another benefit is that it has “now made clear, once and for all, that all the substances which compose food contact plastics are subject to limitations like SML, Dainelli said.
“For instance, inks, adhesives, coatings and varnishes - materials which are not plastics but become part of the final plastic material - have to comply with SML requirements. This gives us plastics convertors a powerful tool to tell suppliers to give us the correct information in order to comply,” he said.
Dainelli welcomed simplification of the test of overall migration so that it could be done in a more standardized way. This means overall migration becomes easier to test and to be interpreted. But he said it is also good that more attention is now placed on specific migration, “which could be critical from the point of view of consumer protection.”
The PIM regulation was also welcomed by Chris Howick of Ineos Chlorvinyls, chair of the British Plastics Federation's product safety committee. He noted that it would eliminate delays which arise from having to wait for national parliaments to implement rules, which is a negative aspect of EU directives.
He said the previous directive had been amended so many times that it was necessary to closely read amending legislation to ensure compliance.
“Now it's all in one place, everything is harmonized and regulated,” he said.
A complete version of this story is available at www.europeanplasticsnews.com.