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Interview with Smithers

Ahead of this September's Food Contact Asia 2022, we spoke with Alistair Irvine, Senior Manager at Food Contact Testing, Material Science and Engineering, Smithers, to get a sneak peek of what we can expect from his presentation on 'European Developments on recycled plastics in food contact'. Here's what he had to say...

Q1. As consumers/end users continually push for more sustainable/greener/safer solutions, what do you think is the biggest concern regarding food contact materials/packaging?

The move towards mores sustainable packaging is unquestionably causing a shift from conventional packaging materials such as synthetic plastics, where the safety legislation is clearly-defined, towards the use of novel materials such as biopolymers where the legislation isn’t well established.  This poses a challenge to regulators and industry.
Q2. What are some of the biggest opportunities gaining attention within the food contact field? 

Whilst the move to more sustainable packaging and the introduction of plastics taxes is obviously disruptive, it also creates opportunities for biopolymers, compostable packaging and also will drive the use of post-consumer recycled plastics.  I believe these will be strong growth areas over the next 10 years.
Future Focus:
Q3. What industry topics are getting the most attention at this time? How are these factors influencing the future of food contact packaging/materials?

Recycling is a key area of focus currently in the plastics packaging industry.  A combination of consumer pressure and plastics taxes are putting pressure on the packaging industry to use more recycled materials.  However, food contact regulators have sometimes been slow to respond with practical but effective safety legislation to enable this to develop fully.  While great steps have been made towards establishing safe use of post consumer PET in food contact applications, sometimes the regulatory developments have been slower for post consumer polyolefins.  To reach the next step on the sustainability ladder, regulators and industry will need to work closely together.
Q4. What does your company/organization hope to achieve over the next 5 years with regards to the future of food contact packaging/materials industry?

We hope to be able to help the packaging industry to respond to the ever-changing business environment that it faces.
Conference Related:
Q5. Your presentation at this year’s event is European Developments on recycled plastics in food contact. Why is it important for others in your industry to hear this message? 

Simply because recycling of plastics is a key element of a more sustainable food packaging industry and it’s important for companies exporting into the EU and UK to hear how the legislation will change.
Q6. Which presentations (what session topic) are you most looking forward to hearing about at Food Contact Asia? 

Personally, I’ll be interested to hear of developments in Japan and the likely future path for their legislation as this is a major market where there is a lot of new regulatory change.