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Tagging trial of plastic bottles ‘a world first’

A UK supermarket chain is tagging plastic bottles to boost its understanding of recycling and to give a clearer picture of actual recycling rates.

In a trial, the Co-op is adding an ultraviolet (UV) invisible code to the labels on own-brand spring water bottles. When a bottle reaches a specific recycling centre in North Wales, the UV code will be identified by specialist equipment fitted to sorting machines and the data collected will be uploaded in real-time.

The convenience retailer is working with technology partner Polytag to collect recycling data that will showcase the exact number of Co-op bottles being sorted at recycling centres. Co-op claims to be the first brand in the world to start collecting data in this way.

It will start the label trial with its two-litre still spring water line and will look to expand further as the trial develops.

Matt Hood, md, Co-op Food, says: ‘We want to gain a greater understanding on a product’s journey in the recycling chain to help paint a clearer picture and support future traceability.

‘This new trial will enable Co-op to gather valuable insight to provide guidance and measurement for future initiatives to encourage more people to recycle and it will also support the industry with true benchmarks for recycling rates in the UK for the very first time.’

Polytag ceo Alice Rackley adds: ‘We’ve optimised the UV tag reading technology so that brands can apply a simple UV tag layer to their labels and get never-before-seen data about how many of their single-use items of plastic packaging are being handled in a material recovery facility.

Polytag says it is working with UK devolved governments and recycling facility operators to extend the roll out and installation of more UV tag readers across the country to deliver more useful data to brands.

In 2021, Co-op announced that its entire range of own-brand food packaging was 100% recyclable. Its own-brand still, sparkling, flavoured water, carbonated drinks and mixers are made of 100% recycled material.

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