The end of single use plastic packaging has been written into law (EU directive no. 2019/904, Agec law no. 2020-105). This transition will have an impact on the use of food packaging and, consequently, production, distribution, collection, and recycling systems. We must be able to guarantee the same level of food safety for recycled materials and reused articles as their single-use equivalents.
Since 2017, the Actia Safemat Joint Technological Unit has been using experimental techniques (analytical chemistry, physical chemistry, materials science, materials transfer, thermodynamics, and test benches), theoretical techniques and calculations (molecular modelling, multiscale modelling, computer-assisted design and optimisation, risk analysis, and chemometrics) to anticipate the most direct consequences of the circular economy and support regulatory change.
The programme of this Joint Technological Unit, based within the University of Paris-Saclay, was renewed in January 2022 for another five-year period. Its main area of focus is the food industry, but the concepts and methods it develops can be transposed to cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, and medical devices.
The Joint Technological Unit works in the public interest on standardising methods for the evaluation and management of risk. It supports innovation by developing and disseminating safe and sustainable packaging engineering methods. Its R&D efforts focus on three main areas:
- The compatibility of recycled (plastic and cellulose) materials with food products, and the traceability of deposits.
- Consideration of ageing in the safety of recycled, reused, and compostable materials.
- Rational and computer-assisted packaging design to accelerate the replacement of materials and practices.