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Mercosur 2021 Interview

Ahead of the upcoming Global Food Contact 2021 conference, taking place online on 14-16 June 2021. We spoke with Professor Alejandro Ariosti from Mercosur. He gave us a sneak peek of what we can expect from his presentation on “Food contact materials regulatory panorama in MERCOSUR and Latin America, future industry challenges and more...

1.    Could you please share with our audience a quick snapshot about what you will be sharing in your presentation/interview? 

In my presentation “Food contact materials regulatory panorama in MERCOSUR and Latin America – An update”, I shall address the following issues:

The different economic blocks into which Latin American and Caribbean countries are integrated, are going to be presented (CAN, CARICOM, MERCOSUR and SICA). 

In Latin America, food contact materials (FCMs) sanitary requirements are included in official regulations and voluntary or mandatory standards.

The regulatory situation in different countries is diverse, according to the realities of each one of them:
  • MERCOSUR Resolutions appear as the most advanced of those regulations in Latin America (they are based on the EU and US-FDA regulations, which are taken as main international references).
  • There are countries that are working to approach their emerging regulations to the EU, MERCOSUR and US-FDA regulations, and approve or accept FCMs that comply with these legislations.
  • Some countries do not have or have very incipient emerging regulations.
In particular in the case of MERCOSUR, I shall comment the last advances reached during the 2020 and 2021 on-line international meetings, the situation of polymeric coatings covered by GMC Resolution 39/19, and the interest of industry in exploring the market of post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastics other than PET.

2.    As we look to the future of this industry, what are some of the biggest challenges currently facing this industry in Latin America and worldwide?

Let us set apart the challenges posed to society in general, and industry in particular, by the COVID-19 pandemia, of which there are worldwide examples of collapse, resilience and recovering. Just considering our specific field on FCMs, there are several challenges companies that manufacture or use them are facing, but I shall just mention the following three: 
  • The existence of a myriad of regulations on some materials that are not recognized amongst jurisdictions worldwide; and on the contrary, the lack of regulations on several other FCMs (for instance, 4 harmonized FCMs vs. 13 non harmonized FCMs in the European Union); 
  • Problems of information transmission along the supply chain between different stakeholders, that can hinder the verification of FCMs´ compliance with regulations; the Declarations of Compliance (DoC), which were devised by the European Union regulation as a means of ensuring that information transmission are a useful tool, but regulators and stakeholders recognize that in several cases DoC have defects and fail to comply with their original goal;
  • The restrictions on several FCMs, due to regulations focused on the environmental point of view, for instance, the Single Use Plastics Directive (SUPD) and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD), just to mention two examples in the European Union; these regulations may affect other markets, mainly in the developing countries, when trying to adopt these regulations in their home markets, or exporting to foreign markets.

3.    What would be the main opportunities for the industry regarding the forthcoming EU results on recycling processes for PET at the European level?

The European Commission DG-SANTE is studying two amendments to Commission Regulation (EC) 282/2008, to update requirements on mechanical recycling (secondary recycling) of post-consumer plastics; to include provisions on the use of plastic scrap (cut-offs) (primary recycling), chemical recycling (tertiary recycling or feedstock recycling), and the use of PCR plastics behind a functional barrier; and intends to publish the Union list of PCR plastics decontamination technologies with authorization decisions by the Commission.
In summary, these actions aim to facilitate the implementation of new decontamination and recycling technologies for post-consumer PET and other plastics, and will surely open new opportunities to industry, in the framework of the European Union Circular Economy Strategy.

In the MERCOSUR Member States, GMC Resolution 30/07 covers at present only the use of PCR-PET (mechanical, chemical and hybrid processes). The European Union advances are going to be followed with interest. In the last two years in Argentina the plastics industry showed interest in expanding the scope of GMC Resolution 30/07 to post-consumer plastics other than PET (e.g., polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene).