Changes in requirement set out by the European Union Plastics Regulation over additives used in glass fibre sizing components, has prompted guidance to be released by Glass Fibre Europe. These changes are in relation to any GRP products that may come into contact with foodstuffs.
Since 2011, products used to create GRP have been subject to rules and regulations to ensure that the materials used comply with the positive list requirements of the Plastics regulation. This meant that any GRP products, such as GRP housings, would legally have to comply with the specified list of materials set out by these regulations.
Up until recently, the Plastics Regulation had allowed manufacturers of GRP a transitioning period, in which they need not list additives used in glass fibre sizing agents. This period ran until December 31st 2015 and was set to be extended but ultimately, the decision was turned down by the European Commission.
Therefore, as of January 2016 it became a legal requirement that any GRP products that were likely to come into contact with food, would have to comply. This means that additives used in these glass fibre sizing agents must be on the positives list set out by the Plastic Regulations and must be listed as so.
There have been some issues regarding the additives on this list, as not all substances used as additives in glass fibre sizing agents come under the label of ‘additive’, despite being safe for use. An additive is defined by the Plastics Regulation as a substance which is intentionally added to plastics to achieve a physical or chemical effect during processing and is also present in the final product.
Due to these issues, guidance has been put out by Glass Fibre Europe to help manufacturers and distributors understand whether or not GRP products are compliant. The guidance can be found here and gives a detailed breakdown of what is considered an additive, based on its intended technical function.
The document also gives advice to those who may not be able to demonstrate compliance, suggesting a reduction in the maximum contact area exposed to food products or even a reduction in content of glass fibre itself.
Whilst the document helps to clarify how to comply with these regulations and what to consider if you can’t, it also states that there are no serious health risks expected from the use of sizing agents in products that are likely to come into contact with foodstuffs. This is stated because consumer exposure is likely to be low but any risk, no matter how small, must be taken into consideration.
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