Co-op employs Polytag’s recycling technology to trace its spring water bottles


Polytag will apply unique-every-time QR codes and UV tags to Co-op’s own-label PET 2-litre spring water bottles to increase the visibility of its packaging during the recycling process.

In what it calls an “industry-first”, the unique-every-time QR codes will be applied to the pack labels by Co-op’s bottled water supplier at the standard label application speeds, Polytag says.

The QR codes are GS1 compliant and take consumers to a Co-op landing page detailing information about the retailer’s sustainability and charitable commitments.

Within the unique-every-time QR code there is a serial number which can be used to handle “fraud-proof” rewards, assign loyalty points and secure deposit redemptions.

A UV tag layer invisible to the human eye, printed by Tipografic using UV flexographic inks, is also applied across the label.

Polytag says this UV tag layer enables barcode level information to be captured in the recycling centre and is uploaded to Polytag’s cloud-based analytics dashboard to provide the retailer with real-time insights on whether packaging is recycled and in what volumes.

At Co-op, we champion initiatives that enable a circular recycling economy for all packaging materials.

Rob Thompson, Packaging Manager at Co-op, commented: “At Co-op, we champion initiatives that enable a circular recycling economy for all packaging materials.

“The duality of the UV tag and QR code on our water bottles will enable Co-op to gain a greater understanding on a product’s journey in the recycling chain and provide valuable insight to shape guidance and measurement for future initiatives to encourage more people to recycle.”

Polytag says the visible QR codes and “hidden” UV tags will pave the way for a cost-effective Digital Deposit Return Scheme (DDRS) in the future as scanning the unique QR code on used product packaging has the potential to allow consumers to reclaim their deposit via their smartphones from home.

Commenting on the announcement, Alice Rackley, CEO of Polytag, said: “The combination of consumer-facing QR codes and UV tags is the future of creating and maintaining a circular economy from the millions of pieces of packaging that enter the market every year.

“The onus is now firmly on the industry to take responsibility for the packaging they produce.”

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