Co-op is launching a traceability project to understand how many of its own-brand plastic bottles are processed through UK recycling centres.
The traceability trial has been triggered so the retailer can start to build a picture of the number of bottles being recycled, helping it improve its understanding of true recycling figures to help benchmark future rates for the industry.
Working in partnership with Polytag, a technology business that enables a circular economy for packaging, Co-op has become the first organisation to accrue data in this way. Specifically, the retailer will add a UV invisible code to the label of one of its best-selling own-brand spring water lines, so that when the bottle reaches a specific recycling centre in north Wales it can be identified by specialist equipment installed within the sorting machines.
That information is filtered to and is accessible by the Co-op in real time, via cloud technology.
Matt Hood, managing director of Co-op Food, said: “We all have our part to play when it comes to recycling and, as a retailer, we want to gain a greater understanding on a product’s journey in the recycling chain to help paint a clearer picture and support future traceability.
“This new trial will enable Co-op to gather valuable insight to provide guidance and measurement for future initiatives to encourage more people to recycle and it will also support the industry with true benchmarks for recycling rates in the UK for the very first time.”
Alice Rackley, CEO of Polytag, said: “We’ve optimised the UV tag reading technology so that brands can apply a simple UV tag layer to their labels and get never-before-seen data about how many of their single-use items of plastic packaging are being handled in a material recovery facility.”
Polytag is working in partnership with the UK’s devolved governments and recycling facility operators to extend the roll out and installation of more UV tag readers across the country. As this happens, the data will clearly become richer and therefore more useful to brands as they seek to understand if the single-use packaging they sell with products is recycled.
The thinking is that once this becomes more transparent, more work can be done to measure success of and improve initiatives designed to improve recycling rates over time.
Co-op will start the UV label traceability trial with its 2-litre still spring water line and will look to expand further as the trial develops.
[Image credit: Co-op]