Recycling technology startup, Polytag, has developed a new UV tag reading technology that will enable brands, legislators and recycling operators to trace plastic packaging through the circular economy, with far-reaching benefits for recycling rates in the UK.
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 never-before-seen 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. Both parts are low-cost and easily retrofitted onto existing label printing systems and recycling detection systems respectively.
With Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) having already coming into effect, brands classed as obligated packaging producers are required to benchmark their progress. The technology is expected to dramatically aid compliance, by providing brands with the data to easily ‘describe, tag and trace’ their plastic packaging through the circular economy, while also streamlining their packaging and recycling operations.
In recognition of the value of this real-time data, market-leading retailers Co-op and Ocado have already partnered with Polytag.
Likewise, legislators will be able to measure business liabilities and enforce legislation, by finally being able to identify the ownership of plastic packaging, while local authorities and recycling centres can capture real-time data on packaging composition and breakdown of packaging, in turn, informing recycling strategy, investment in sorting and recovery equipment, and onward tracking of materials.
Furthermore, by generating and tracking a grid of UV 2D Data Matrix applied at the plate printing stage, the solution has made the delivery of a Digital Deposit Return Scheme (DDRS) a reality. Not only does this aid traceability of packaging material in DRS counting houses and in existing recycling facilities, but it acts as a ‘mass balance’ cross-check to support with accurate reporting and fraud prevention.
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.”
Later this year, UV tags will be printed on to 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, and will use it to help measure the success of initiatives designed to improve recycling rates over time.
To learn more about Polytag’s UV tag reading technology, read the latest report on their website here: https://www.polytag.co.uk/pilots/uv-tag-reader/.