Fresh meat packed in film, colorful yogurt cups, sealed plastic bags for potting soil: What looks like simple plastic to the average person is actually a high-tech product. In our modern age, plastic packaging in all branches of industry is one thing above all – complex. Depending on the product, it must meet a number of different requirements, for example ensure protection against dirt and germs, guarantee safe shipping from producer to consumer or even indicate the necessary information for consumers and retailers.
R-Cycle is the open and globally usable tracing standard along the life cycle of plastic packaging.
The overall goal is to ensure recyclability by seamless documentation of all recycling-relevant packaging properties based on established technologies. In the recycling process, packaging can thus be precisely identified in order to process the resulting recyclate into diverse and high-quality plastic products.
R-Cycle: Tracing and Recycling Plastics
Circular economy for plastics – a challenge
To meet this wide range of requirements, plastic packaging often consists of several different materials. In general, films consist of several layers of different plastics and sometimes bear labels made of paper. Lids are often made from a different type of plastic than the tubs. In addition, printing inks and adhesives are often used.
The more materials are used to produce a packaging the more difficult it is to recycle them because a method for identifying the various materials does not exist. At present, recycling companies are therefore unable to determine with certainty what components make up a packaging. This is a real challenge for circular economy.
Circular Economy Action Plan of the EU
At the beginning of 2020, the European Union unveiled its Circular Economy Action Plan which outlines the EU’s transition toward a future circular economy. This new plan demands traceability of plastic packaging to ensure its recyclability in future. It presents a catalog of 50 measures to establish circular economy, including the tracking and managing of information about resources and the digitization of product data through to the step-by-step development of standardized systems.
At present, there is as yet no viable solution in the market that responds to the EU action plan. Therefore, the industry is challenged more than ever to develop ideas to set up a sustainable circular economy for plastics. Since 2018, we have been working on a functional solution with R-Cycle to ensure the traceability of single-use plastics and thus to introduce a system that enables high-quality recycling.
Circular Economy in Practice
R-Cycle offers the solution
R-Cycle creates one of the key prerequisites for the recycling of plastics: With the application of a mark to identify a packaging, a cloud-based database traces the entire value chain down to the raw materials used.
Closing the Loop
R-Cycle is making rapid progress
Our aim is to implement a practical solution to make rapid progress toward a closed-loop circular economy. In collaboration with packaging manufacturers, brand owners, wholesalers, and retailers we introduce global identification numbers and develop IoT gateways, the necessary server infrastructure and standardized formats for secure data exchange.
Uniting the industry
R-Cycle is an open system which any producer can join. Are you interested in our product? Do you want to join us in offering innovative solutions to politicians and society and establishing a global standard for the circular plastics economy? Then contact us.
Frequent Questions and Answers
Contrary to aluminum or paper, packaging made of plastic is non-homogeneous in most cases. It is made up of a wide range of constituents, for example different plastics, additives, printing inks or adhesives. This makes sorting more difficult in the recycling process since there is no method to reliably distinguish recyclable plastics from non-recyclable plastics. It is therefore almost impossible to separate them into single-sort fractions.
The fractions recovered today can merely be converted into low-quality recyclates that are suitable only for a very limited range of applications (e.g. to produce garbage containers or park benches). Low-quality recyclate is unusable for high-quality applications, such as food packaging. As a result, large volumes of plastic waste end up in thermal recycling (incineration). Before recyclate can be transformed into food packaging, a process must be found to ensure that it does not contain any toxic substances. It is therefore essential to trace the origin of recyclate.
R-Cycle is not in competition with any other initiatives. On the contrary, R-Cycle was launched as a complementary project to existing circular economy initiatives. The R-Cycle initiative focuses on deploying the necessary databases to store packaging data and make it accessible to third parties. The results of other initiatives, e.g. those that concentrate on marking technologies, are actually the basic prerequisites for the functioning of R-Cycle. In turn, other initiatives can make use of the data gathered by R-Cycle. Hence R-Cycle provides a complementary concept to other circular economy initiatives.
No. In the same way, the recipe for Cola is top secret. Although all the ingredients are listed on the bottles, nobody can copy the beverage. R-Cycle will receive solely all the data specific to recycling. This does not include any process data or constituents that have nothing to do with the recycling process. The system also uses a number of authorization levels. In other words, end-users are not privy to the same information as manufacturers.