Co-op employs Polytag’s innovative technology to track bottles recycling journey

Co-op has partnered with the recycling tech pioneer Polytag to apply unique-every-time QR codes and UV tags to the food retailer’s own-label PET 2-litre spring water bottles.

The “industry first” will provide Co-op with better visibility of its packaging during the recycling process.

The GS1 compliant unique every time QR codes will be applied to the pack labels by the supplier at the standard label application speeds. These will be linked to the retailer’s landing page detailing information about Co-op’s sustainability and charitable commitments.

An additional serial number will secure the customer from potential fraud proof rewards and can be used to assign loyalty points and secure deposit redemptions.

A UV tag line will be added across the label to transfer barcode level information to Polytag’s cloud-based analytics dashboard, enabling real-time visibility and recycling insights. The technology was developed by Polytag in partnership with researchers at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.


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“We champion initiatives that enable a circular recycling economy for all packaging materials,” Rob Thompson, packaging manager at Co-op, said.

“The duality of the UV tag and QR code on our water bottles will enable Co-op to gain a greater understanding on a product’s journey in the recycling chain and provide valuable insight to shape guidance and measurement for future initiatives to encourage more people to recycle.”

Earlier in March, Co-op partnered with robotics company Starship Technologies to deploy autonomous droids for food delivery in Sale, Manchester.

“The combination of consumer facing QR codes and UV tags is the future of creating and maintaining a circular economy from the millions of pieces of packaging that enter the market every year. The onus is now firmly on the industry to take responsibility for the packaging they produce,” Alice Rackley, CEO at Polytag, said.

“Polytag is a necessary enabler for FMCG brands committed to circularity. It is a data, sustainability and marketing platform in one, already delivering world firsts in partnership with major brands, such as Co-op who are reaping the rewards of greater visibility of their packaging. We encourage other brands and retailers to get in touch to see for themselves.”

A Welsh government spokesperson further endorsed the initiative, adding that Polytag’s digital technologies are the key to unlocking the UK’s recycling potential.

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