Ocado tests new tech to support a digital deposit return scheme

Digital deposit return scheme trial: Ocado tests on-pack QR codes with Polytag

Online grocer Ocado has started a trial to test digital deposit return scheme technology that it says “could have a hugely positive impact on the nation’s deposit return scheme”.

Working with Wales-based company Polytag, Ocado is putting QR codes on its fully recyclable two-pint and four-pint milk cartons to highlight how digital deposit return schemes might function in the future.

The Department for Food and Rural Affairs in the UK is still reviewing responses to a consultation on the introduction of a nationwide deposit return scheme in England. Such an initiative would likely see a levy added to drinks sold in bottles and cans, which would then be redeemed by customers if they returned the container for recycling after using it.

Ocado’s trial is not part of a formal deposit return scheme – and plastic milk bottles are not proposed to be part of such a programme – but it highlights one method that could be used for a digital deposit return scheme.

It is a test at scale, too, with 1.6 million of Ocado’s milk bottles featuring a QR code which households can scan with their smartphones to receive detailed recycling information. Ocado and Polytag say these unique-every-time QR codes prove that a digital deposit return scheme is viable.

Laura Fernandez, senior packaging & sustainability manager at Ocado Retail, commented: “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.”

Alice Rackley, CEO of Polytag, which last week announced a partnership with Co-op to help boost recycling transparency, added: “This world-first trial has game-changing implications for recycling in this country.”

She added that the Ocado-supported trial will be a “significant step” towards the implementation of a digital deposit return scheme in the UK, which she argued would “provide a much more convenient and environmentally friendly way for households to recover their deposits”.

Rackley suggested the Polytag technology also provides users with new marketing tools and a wealth of data on how consumers are recycling their products.

During the trial, Ocado will effectively have a new direct-to-consumer marketing channel, which it intends to use to tell its greener retailing story. Upon scanning the QR code, consumers access landing pages – built by Ocado – where they then encounter customised campaigns and links out to relevant content and reward schemes.

[Image credit: Ocado]

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