DDRS Alliance and Polytag collaborate to accelerate Digital DRS

The two organizations will work together to show the viability and convenience of a Digital DRS.

Not-for-profit company DDRS Alliance and Polytag, the recycling tech firm, have collaborated to accelerate the development and adoption of Digital DRS in the UK.  

DDRS Alliance’s members include Circularity Solutions, Recycl3r, ACE UK, Tetra Pak and Valpak. 

As the launch date for a DRS in the UK is reportedly delayed further until 2028, the two organizations will work together to show the viability and convenience of a Digital DRS. They aim to create a global blueprint for its development, focusing on the UK and other European countries. 

DDRS Alliance has also today published a Digital DRS Charter which is designed to ensure alignment across all major DRS stakeholders in the UK and beyond. It is hoped that all Digital DRS proponents and DRS stakeholders will sign up to the principles outlined in the charter. 

DDRS Alliance and Polytag both utilize GS1 Digital Link QR codes to facilitate a Digital DRS. GS1 forecasts that brands will begin replacing traditional product barcodes with two-dimensional smart QR codes from 2027. These QR codes can be used to increase supply chain visibility, authenticate products for retailers, and extend the label for consumers, through additional features and benefits to engage consumers with rich, dynamic content and engage through loyalty and reward schemes. Brands and retailers can also use the QR codes supplied by Polytag to operate a Digital DRS. 

The collaboration comes after several successful trials from the respective parties demonstrating both the technical readiness and consumer appeal of a Digital DRS. 

Last year, the DDRS Alliance conducted a successful 16-week trial in Brecon, Wales, showcasing strong consumer interest in a Digital DRS in the UK. The trial covered the entire town, with nearly all soft drinks retailers participating. Results revealed that consumers favored various return options, including kerbside returns. Out of 1,500 users, 58 percent chose kerbside collections, indicating a preference for home, community, and retail-based return choices. 

Polytag successfully ran the world-first nationwide pilot demonstrating the Digital DRS process alongside UK major retailer, Ocado Retail, boasting an 87 percent return rate for consumers that engaged with on-pack QR codes. In 56 days, over 20,000 20p rewards were claimed by Ocado customers via their smartphones. The scheme also enabled the online retailer world-first real-time insights into where, when, and how much of its two- and four-liter HDPE milk bottles were being recycled – tracking packaging from point of label manufacture through to recycling center at barcode-level. 

DDRS Alliance is currently planning a significant follow-up urban trial which will feature, for the first time, Polytag’s tech running alongside that already proven in the Brecon trial. 

Duncan Midwood, co-founder of DDRS Alliance, said: ‘Deposit Return Schemes have demonstrated across Europe that consumers respond to a financial incentive to return drink containers for recycling. Digital DRS brings the solution to the modern day by providing consumers with a more convenient solution mirroring their lifestyles. DDRS Alliance is uniquely positioned to coordinate the development of Digital DRS ensuring tech companies, such as Polytag, can deliver their solutions within a well-defined and standardized framework. We are excited about working more closely with Polytag and hope DRS stakeholders across the World will sign up to the Digital DRS Charter and join us.’ 

Alice Rackley, CEO of Polytag, commented: ‘Countries across Europe, like Serbia and Spain, are already seeing and reaping the benefits of digitally supported recycling systems. It is high time that more nations, including the UK, do the same. Our collaboration with DDRS Alliance will ensure we can strengthen our position and continue to demonstrate why a digital scheme will be better for brands, retailers, government, consumers and the environment. We will integrate our scalable, practical, and above all, ready-to-deploy solution into existing infrastructure across the UK and further afield.’