Cambridge, United Kingdom-based PragmatIC Semiconductor Ltd. is studying the use of radio frequency identification/near field communication (RFID/NFC) technology in plastic packaging reuse applications.
PragmatiC says RFID/NFC is widespread in some supply chain management applications, “but now it has become viable to leverage this technology for high-volume, low-cost consumer goods packaging, enabling item-level traceability and data analysis for sustainability reasons.”
The company says retailers and brand owners “have made public ESG [environmental, social and governance] commitments and are under pressure to turn words into action, so they are now looking closely at digital innovations. New smart reusable packaging programs could help reduce their environmental impact.”
The U.K. company says along with reuse programs mechanical recycling would remain viable as “the last step in the process, after each bottle has been reused for as long as it is safely possible to do so.”
RFID/NFC tracking, adds PragmatIC, “gives retailers and packaging service providers the information to make the right decisions to ensure economic viability, operational efficiency and [the] least environmental impact, for reuse at scale.”
Some reuse trials have taken place but they have struggled to scale economically and operationally while being environmentally beneficial, says PragmatIC. “Challenges include reverse logistics, packaging design, consumer resistance [and] safety,” notes the firm.
At the same time, the technology provider says, “Global brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi have made commitments to reuse packaging. New technology could help make this possible at the scale needed.”
Continues the firm, “PragmatIC is working with partners and leading retailers to use novel flexible electronics and RFID/NFC to improve traceability within food and drink supply-chains.”
Among the reuse opportunities with RFID/NFC, says PragmatIC, are digitalization that enables data generation to measure and optimize the system. Such measurements can include “material flow, item provenance, washing efficiencies, consumer engagement and data-driven packaging life cycle analysis.”
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