New tech enables packaging tracing through circular economy

plastic packaging

Recycling technology startup, Polytag, has developed new UV tag reading technology that it says will enable brands, legislators and recycling operators to trace plastic packaging through the circular economy.

Polytag says the technology, developed in partnership with researchers at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, will provide key stakeholders in the packaging supply chain with access to packaging lifecycle data, including where and when it was produced, and the percentage of recycled materials it contains.

The two-part technology consists of UV 2D printing capabilities and a UV tag reader, a “fully ruggedised” unit installed in recycling centres, Polytag says.

Polytag says the technology can aid compliance with Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) by providing brands with the data to ”describe, tag and trace” their plastic packaging through the circular economy, while also streamlining their packaging and recycling operations.

Retailers Co-op and Ocado have already partnered with Polytag, the start-up says.

Legislators will be able to measure business liabilities and enforce legislation, Polytag says, by being able to identify the ownership of plastic packaging.

The start-up continues that local authorities and recycling centres can capture real-time data on packaging composition and breakdown of packaging to inform their recycling strategy, investment in sorting and recovery equipment and onward tracking of materials.

We are driven by the belief that what gets measured gets managed, and that reversing stagnating recycling rates will require us to stop guessing.

By generating and tracking a grid of UV 2D Data Matrix applied at the plate printing stage, Polytag says the solution has made the delivery of a Digital Deposit Return Scheme (DDRS) “a reality”.

Polytag says the technology can aid the traceability of packaging material in DRS counting houses and in existing recycling facilities, as well as act as a “mass balance” cross-check to support accurate reporting and fraud prevention.

Later this year, UV tags will be printed onto the labels of Co-op’s two-litre own-brand spring water bottles and detected by Polytag’s UV tag reader at the Abergele Recycling Centre in North Wales.

The retailer will acquire data including the exact number of plastic containers sorted, handled and recycled. Polytag says Co-op will use the data to help measure the success of initiatives designed to improve recycling rates over time.

Commenting on the trial, Alice Rackley, CEO of Polytag said: “We are driven by the belief that what gets measured gets managed, and that reversing stagnating recycling rates will require us to stop guessing and start knowing how much and what type of packaging is being recycled.

“Fortunately, our new technology will provide stakeholders with the never-before-seen data to do just that.”

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