Plastic recycling and remoulding processes deployed by Belgian packaging solutions firm Schoeller Allibert at three of its manufacturing sites have been certified as safe for food use.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has approved the company's process, which recycles old food contact containers into new food contact containers.

The process approved by the EFSA covers recycling of food-grade high density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP) crates into new containers for food contact. It currently operates at Schoeller Allibert's sites in Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.

After inspection the material is ground into flakes, then washed, dried and transferred to injection molding machines. During the injection moulding process the HDPE or PP flakes are heated to temperatures of up to 250 C (482 F) in order to eliminate the risk of microbiological contamination. No additional chemicals are used at any stage of the process.

The Belgian company said that it developed this process in an effort to help retailers meet sustainability targets. Old or damaged food-grade crates that have been used in a closed or controlled loop distribution system, which allows traceability, can now be recycled and turned into new crates for use in the food and fresh produce supply chain.

Among Schoeller Allibert's customers is supermarket group Sainsbury's, which announced July 28 that it was the first UK retailer to recycle its old food crates into new food safe crates made from 100% recycled material.