Posted: Wed 7th Dec 2022

Deeside-based recycling start-up partners with two of UK’s biggest retailers trialing ‘tag and trace’ technology

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Dec 7th, 2022

Deeside-based recycling technology start-up Polytag has partnered with two of the UK’s biggest retailers in an effort to improve the nation’s recycling rates.

With the Welsh Government, UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive expected to announce the responses to the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) consultation in the coming months, Polytag is undertaking trials with both Co-op and Ocado Retail to demonstrate how a digital version of the scheme can be successfully implemented in the UK.

Polytag, based at the Deeside Industrial Estate, was founded by local entrepreneur Phil Sutton in 2019.

Its ‘describe, tag and trace’ technology offers brands, retailers and legislators never-before-seen data about packaging lifecycles in the circular economy, enabling them to stop guessing and start knowing where their packaging is being disposed of and where it is being recycled.

Despite attracting attention from internationally recognised brands, the start-up retains strong local ties, entering a partnership with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, in Broughton, the world-leading research centre, where it has developed its ground-breaking technology.

In June 2021, alongside the Welsh Government, Conwy Council and WRAP Cymru, it delivered the UK’s first DDRS pilot, in Conwy, North Wales.

During the trial, 263 registered households scanned at least one bottle, an engagement rate of 97%, with 90% of registered scanning at least four out of the six bottles, demonstrating unequivocally the viability of the scheme.

In the trial with Co-op, invisible UV tags will be printed onto the labels of the retailer’s own-brand spring water lines.

Polytag’s UV tag reading technology, fitted to the plastics conveyer at Abergele’s Gofer Bulking Centre, will then enable Co-op to accurately identify how much of its plastic packaging is being recycled.

Meanwhile, during the trial with Ocado Retail, 1.6m unique-every-time QR codes will be printed onto the retailer’s fully recyclable milk bottles, enabling households, upon scanning the bottles with their smartphones, to receive detailed recycling information and clear calls-to-action.

The success of Polytag’s DDRS pilot and enthusiasm from retailers across the country, there is growing hope that any forthcoming DRS announcements will include a digital element, with innovative, convenient technology working alongside traditional deposit return schemes, also known as reverse vending machines (RVMs).

Polytag’s spokesperson said: “The benefits of a Digital Deposit Return Scheme (DDRS) for consumers have been widely acknowledged.”

“In addition to providing households with recycling information upon scanning their packaging, as well as being cheaper to implement, a DDRS can be integrated with existing kerbside infrastructure meaning that consumers can conveniently recycle their packaging and recover their deposits from the comfort of their own homes, as opposed to travelling to drop-off points.”

Alice Rackley, CEO, Polytag, said:If the UK is to achieve its net-zero ambitions, it is imperative it we address the alarmingly stagnant recycling rates.”

“We are delighted that two retail giants in Co-op and Ocado Retail have recognised the problem by partnering with us, which will be a significant step towards the implementation of a DDRS in this country.”

Laura Fernandez, Senior Packaging and Sustainability Manager at Ocado Retail Ltd, said: “As the world’s largest online supermarket, we champion the use of innovative technology as we strive to become the UK’s most sustainable grocery retailer.”

“Polytag’s digital platform offers plenty of environmental and economic benefits for retailers and customers alike – it’s easy to use and when used at scale, could have a hugely positive impact on the nation’s deposit return scheme.”

“We’re looking forward to seeing how our customers respond to the trial and how many would redeem their deposit at home.”

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