Polytag has named M&S as a founding member of its Polytag Ecotrace Programme, which seeks to trace and recycle single-use plastic packaging using Invisible UV Tag detection – and encourages other businesses to get involved.

In an effort to meet demand for recycled PET from FMCG brand owners, Polytag applies Invisible UV Tags to labels during the production process. These can be identified by Polytag UV Tag Readers once the packaging enters the recycling stream at a recycling centre.

In turn, this process is expected to unlock accurate sorting and cleaner feedstock for recycled PET packaging materials, improve recycling rates, and give companies clearer insights into recycling rates for their plastic packaging.

Polytag’s Invisible UV Tag detection equipment will be installed in ‘strategically chosen’ recycling centres that process high volumes of waste. FMCG brands, retailers, and waste management businesses are encouraged to participate in the programme and, in doing so, receive granular data on over 50% of the UK’s household waste recycling stream.

For example, M&S will reportedly gain real-time insights into the location, time, and amount of its single-use plastic packaging collected and sorted at UK-based recycling centres. This ‘never-before-seen’, barcode-level data will serve as a ‘verified benchmark’ for the retailer’s used plastic packaging recycling rate.

Other businesses are urged to take part in the programme. Their participation is expected to help deploy an Invisible UV Tag Reader network across the UK, with members granted a subscription to the Polytag dashboard; an online hub presents brands with live life cycle data on their plastic packaging materials between consumer use and recovery.

“Currently, FMCG brands have no visibility of what happens to its single-use plastic once it has been put in the bin,” explained Polytag CEO Alice Rackley. “As Extended Producer Responsibility Legislation comes into force, brands will need to take responsibility for packaging materials.

“Not only does our Ecotrace Programme aim to solve this problem by bringing together leading players across the UK to capture barcode-level information on single-use plastic, but it stands as an example of what passion and collaboration paired with tangible action can do.

“We would like to thank M&S for being the first partner to join our new initiative. Other businesses that are interested in joining the programme should get in touch and become part of this story, which is set to shake up the industry.”

Last year, Polytag worked with Aldi to trial invisible UV tags on its packaging. The partnership is intended to gather recycling data at item level and improve traceability throughout the retailer’s supply chain.

In light of further delays to a UK-based deposit return scheme, the not-for-profit DDRS Alliance teamed up with Polytag to develop and adopt a Digital DRS using GS1 Digital Link QR codes. The organizations hope to establish a ‘global blueprint’ for use in the UK and other major European countries.

Polytag has also completed Series A seed round funding led by Collateral Good and co-led by Knop Ventures. The combined investment is set to finance the wider installation of Polytag’s Invisible UV Tag readers in MRFs across the continent.

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