If you look at present-day waste streams, even fully recyclable packaging normally goes to landfills, is burned, or – at worst – ends up in the environment. Only a very low percentage of plastic waste (16%, Germany)* is processed into recyclate.
Taking a closer look, this 16% is downcycled rather than recycled. Due to the mixing of different plastics, recyclate obtained from present-day waste streams can only be used in very basic applications, such as thick-walled injection molded parts or, at best, as black garbage bags. These applications do not allow for any further recycling cycles.
* https://www.boell.de/de/plastikatlas (2019)
To achieve a genuine circular economy, a tracing standard is required for plastic packaging, that records all recycling-relevant information collected from the production process in the form of a digital product passport. This passport must be accessible by a marking on the packaging at the end of its lifecycle. In this way, waste sorting facilities can identify fully recyclable packaging by using standard detection technologies. Pure fractions within the recycling process that supply detailed information on their exact composition are the key to obtaining high-quality recyclate for true recycling.
As a cross-industry consortium, we are working on an open and globally applicable tracing standard to ensure the seamless documentation of recyclable packaging along the value chain – stored on a common data platform. It is accessible to any production facility, from plastic film or injection molding machines through to converting, printing, and filling machines. To retrieve the stored information, a marker – for example a QR or digital watermark code – is applied to the packaging.
R-Cycle is developed to market maturity by a number of technology companies and organizations across the entire value chain. The tracing technology behind R-Cycle is based on GS1 standards – the leading global network for cross-industry process development used by more than six billion scanned barcodes every day.
Are you interested in participating in the creation of a genuine cradle-to-cradle recycling system? Then contact us.