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  • 12 Oct 2021

Polytag’s QR codes aid kerbside return scheme

Polytag’s digital tag and trace technology has been used in a pilot project asking residents in Colwyn Heights to scan bottles when placing them in their usual containers to encourage higher recycling rates

Wales-based start-up Polytag’s digital tag and trace technology has been used in a pilot project asking residents in Colwyn Heights to scan bottles when placing them in their usual containers to encourage higher recycling rates.

During the joint initiative between technology supplier Polytag, the Welsh Government, Conwy Council, Ecosurety, and Wrap Cymru, residents in Colwyn Heights were asked to scan the bottles when placing them in their usual kerbside recycling containers, using a free app. The bottles were scanned again upon collection by Conwy County Borough Council’s household waste recycling team.

Over four weeks, 90 percent of registered households scanned four or more bottles, with 73 percent scanning all six. For each bottle scanned, householders received a digital token, each worth 20p. The results prove to governments and brands that consumers would be engaged in a scheme of this type.

The Conwy pilot leveraged Wales-based start-up Polytag’s digital DRS tag and trace technology. The recycling platform enables brands to describe the packaging, tag their packaging at the point of manufacture, then, with the help of consumers, trace it, so it can be isolated from the existing recycling waste stream and reprocessed in an optimal way to retain high-value plastics and minimize downcycling. All consumers are required to do is scan a small QR-type code on a product’s packaging.

Lee Waters, deputy minister for climate change, said: ‘This has been a really encouraging pilot project that we will learn from as we work towards rooting out waste and reusing as much as we can as part of our efforts to tackle climate change. Digital Deposit Return Schemes, like this one deployed in Colwyn Heights, help Local Authorities, brands and regulators to monitor recycling rates, so they can better understand the habits of households. By using these new technologies, we are one step closer to creating a truly circular economy.’

‘Across the UK, consumers go through an estimated 14 billion plastic drinks bottles, 9 billion cans and 5 billion glass bottles a year, according to Defra,’ said Alice Rackley, CEO of Polytag. ‘A considerable amount of that packaging waste is not recycled because it is not disposed of properly. We created Polytag to provide a simple way to help change consumer behavior and encourage higher recycling levels for drinks containers.

‘As we move closer to implementing a nationwide DRS, it is vital that brands, retailers, government, and technology suppliers work together to find the most convenient way for consumers to recycle containers. We firmly believe that kerbside-based collections are the most effective way to achieve real change while delivering significant benefits to brands. This has now been proven in two trials, the latest in Conwy, where engagement was 97 percent, and in Greasby on the Wirral where we saw 91 percent of tagged packaging successfully recycled.

‘We are hugely grateful to Conwy County Borough Council for their invaluable support throughout the pilot. The team has been instrumental in getting this initiative off the ground, and it couldn’t have been delivered without their buy-in and commitment.’

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