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Unique-Every-Time QR Codes And UV Tags

Both unique-every-time GS1 Digital Link QR codes and UV tags have been applied to Co-op own-label PET 2-litre spring water bottles in an industry-first, offering the retailer unprecedented visibility of its packaging during the recycling process.

The unique-every-time QR codes are applied at Co-op’s supplier at the standard label application speeds, meaning no loss to production efficiency. The QR codes are GS1 compliant and take consumers to a Co-op landing page detailing information about both the retailer’s sustainability and charitable commitments. Within the unique-every-time QR code there is a serial number which can be used to handle fraud-proof rewards, assign loyalty points and secure deposit redemptions.

A UV tag layer invisible to the human eye, printed by Tipografic using UV flexographic inks, is also then applied across the label. This UV tag layer enables barcode level information to be captured in the recycling centre and is uploaded to Polytag’s intuitive, cloud-based analytics dashboard, providing the retailer with real-time insights on whether the packaging is actually recycled, and in what volumes. 

Polytag developed the UV tag reading technology in partnership with researchers at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. It is fitted to the plastics conveyer at Abergele’s Gofer Bulking Centre in Wales.

Both the visible QR codes and ‘hidden’ UV tags pave the way for a cost-effective, Digital Deposit Return Scheme (DDRS). In future, scanning the unique QR code on used product packaging, has the potential to allow consumers to reclaim their deposit via their smartphones, from home. The printing of UV tags provides key supply chain stakeholders – manufacturers, retailers and recycling authorities – access to unique packaging lifecycle data, including where and when it was produced and the percentage of recycled material it contains, protecting against fraud. For this trial, the QR codes will be used as a communication tool, transporting customers to the landing page when scanned.

Polytag’s UV tag reading technology is fitted to the plastics conveyer at Abergele’s Gofer Bulking Centre in Wales.

Commenting on the Co-op trial, Alice Rackley, CEO, Polytag, said:

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.

“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.”

Alice Rackley Polytag Digital Deposit Return Scheme

Rob Thompson, Packaging Manager at Co-op, said:

“At Co-op we champion initiatives that enable a circular recycling economy for all packaging materials. 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.”

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