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Smithers Interview

Ahead of Global Food Contact 2020 Online, we spoke to Alistair Irvine, Senior Manager, Food Contact Testing, at Smithers to discuss the future of food contact materials, the biggest challenges, relevant opportunities, and industry developments that he is anticipating in the coming years.

Q. As we look to the future of this industry, collaboration and innovation will be crucial ways of tackling the most pressing problems. What are some of the biggest challenges currently facing this industry?

2020 has been a truly remarkable year with the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic leading to significant disruptions in the supply chains of all industries. Although the food packaging industry has risen to these challenges, balancing food safety with raw material availability often at short notice is not a trivial task.

Besides the challenges of the pandemic, we are still facing the longer term shift to a more sustainable packaging industry brought about by consumer pressure and legislation such as the Single Use Plastics Directive in Europe.

Q. What are some of the biggest opportunities in this industry? What changes and developments are you hoping to see in the coming years?

As well as being a challenge, the sustainability issue will present some great opportunities. My big hope for this year is that once the recycling processes for PET are finally approved at the European level, there will be a far more transparent regulatory status for these materials and this will enable users to adopt these materials with greater confidence and recyclers to invest in new capacity.

Q. Even though the event went virtual, we’re still bringing together thought leaders from across the supply chain to discuss the latest updates and inspire important conversations. Why is an event like this important to this industry?

The Smithers Global Food Contact Conference is a great opportunity for food contact professionals to come together and learn from each other’s experiences and also to find out how the Regulations are evolving in other parts of the world.

Q. Your presentation will discuss the future of EU food contact. What are some key take-aways?

My presentation will focus on the way in which the EU legislation is expected to develop over the next few years.  Two topics I will spend time speaking on are firstly, the way in which the European Commission are expected to help enable the use of more rPET in food packaging and secondly how we expect them to start the task of regulating additional classes of food contact materials such as paper, coatings and inks.