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Aluminium Deutschland is concerned that the lack of high-quality post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials being produced in Europe will cause major issues when the EU's 2030 regulations come into play, and says a worldwide race for the PCR materials is already on.

Although seven years away, Aluminium Deutschland (AD) says the lack of high-quality stock material available and coming on stream is already concerning. In November, the EU Commission presented a draft of a new regulation for packaging and packaging waste, which states, among other things, that plastic packaging must contain a certain minimum amount of post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials from 1 January 2030. 

Clemens Behrenbruch, chairman of AD’s tubes, cans and impact extruded parts division said, "The fact is, however, that the demand for high-quality aluminium and plastic recycling material needed for the production of packaging exceeds the supply by far. The race for these materials is on, worldwide."

AD says there is only a very limited number of suppliers throughout Europe that can offer recycled polyethylene (PE) from PCR materials that are suitable for food contact. This is partly due to the fact that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is significantly behind in approving recycling processes for polyolefins. The situation is further aggravated by the fact that large parts of the personal care industry also demand food-grade recycled material qualities, AD claims.

"Accordingly, the current suppliers of food-grade PCR-polyethylene can more or less dictate the conditions in an oligopolistic market structure. The situation is similarly precarious for the barrier material EVOH, where supply is also severely limited. The material costs for packaging manufacturers are correspondingly high.

In addition, often tool changes must be made in packaging production in order to be able to process the recycled material, which drives up costs even further," Behrenbruch said.

AD believes that the shortage of recycled materials can be alleviated through an even more consistent design for recycling of packaging and the creation of an appropriate legal framework in Europe that promotes the profitability of recycling activities and investments in technologies and supply logistics. This, the company says, is the only way to sustainably ensure that packaging is collected, sorted and recycled at a high standard.

With regard to plastic tubes, AD believes more intensive efforts are also needed by EFSA in the approval of recycling processes for polyolefins. At the same time, legislators need to be open to different technologies and not demonize chemical recycling as a complement to mechanical recycling.

"The increased use of PCR material is therefore not a wishful thinking but has to face the hard realities on the supply side. Here, packaging manufacturers, brand owners, retailers, recyclers and legislators are equally challenged to create the necessary market and legal foundations," Behrenbruch concluded.

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