HomePackaging and MOCARecycled PET, more chemicals migrate from bottles to drinks

Recycled PET, more chemicals migrate from bottles to drinks

More potentially dangerous chemicals migrate from bottles to beverages when PET is recycled rather than virgin. This is demonstrated by a recent study published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials.

Chemical safety of recycled PET

I ricercators area of  Brunel University in London examined 91 scientific studies on the migration of chemicals from plastic bottles to their contents. Namely water, fizzy drinks, fruit juices, milk and other drinks.

It emerged that the level of migration varies according to some variables, such as the geographical location of the producer, the retention times, the number of re-uses and the type of content. And it is greater if the bottle is made of recycled PET.

Found 150 chemicals

Of the 193 substances researched chemicals, as many as 150 were detected by migration from the PET bottle to the food. In 18 cases, the detected concentration exceeds the regulatory limits. The group includes several phthalates and nickel, almost always in excess in fatty foods.

41 only of the 150 chemicals detected are included in the 'positive list' of the EU regulation on plastic materials in contact with food (FCM).

Call for a 'clean' recycled pet

The chemicals found in foods bottled in recycled PET seem to result from the sum of two sources. Those due to the original PET, even if not added intentionally, and the substances deriving from the recycling process of the material, due to the contamination of the raw material, also through the labels.

According to the researchers, the risks described must be solved with a more accurate management of the processing of recycled PET.

Recycled pet, the SUP directive

The use of rPET (Recycled PET), after all, is one of the measures identified to reduce plastic pollution.

Directive 2019/904 (or SUP directive, Single Use Plastic) in fact provides that PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles contain at least 25% recycled plastic by 2025, 30% by 2030. (2)

rPET, skyrocketing prices

In view of these deadlines and in the presence of a shortage of 'secondary raw materials', the race to adapt beverage packaging and the shortage of recycled PET (rPET) have already led to significant increases.

'From January 2021 the cost of recycled PET flakes (rPET) is rose 103% in Europe, reaching 1.690 euros per ton. The cost of bales of PET bottles, the starting material for making flakes, has risen even faster, reaching more than three times the values ​​of last year.', reports the campaign website'A good return - much more than a rejection'.

Marta Strinati


(1) Spyridoula Gerassimidou, Paulina Lanska, John N. Hahladakis, Elena Lovat, Silvia Vanzetto, Birgit Geueke, Ksenia J. Groh, Jane Muncke, Maricel Maffini, Olwenn V. Martin, Eleni Iacovidou. Unpacking the complexity of the PET drink bottles value chain: A chemicals perspective. Journal of Hazardous Materials, Volume 430, 2022, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhazmat.2022.128410.

(2) Luca Foltran. The guidelines of the SUP directive. GIFTS (Great Italian Fopod Trade) 8.7.21. https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/imballaggi-e-moca/le-linee-guida-della-direttiva-sup

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".

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