In this article, part of our ongoing interview series With the finalists of the Sustainability Awards 2022, we talk to R-Cycle about its digital product passport with which it aims to revolutionize traceability in plastics recycling.
You are a finalist in the Sustainability Awards 2022. Congratulations! To begin with, could you summarize your post in less than 50 words?
R-Cycle is the digital product pass for sustainable plastic packaging. As a platform for all stakeholders along the packaging lifecycle, it automatically collects and provides recycling-relevant data in an open standard format during packaging production and makes it accessible for improved waste segregation and other applications to improve sustainability.
Why do you think the jury was impressed by your entry? Tell us what is innovative about your project and/or how it affects the sustainability of packaging.
The compelling added value of R-Cycle is that it addresses the key problem of plastics recycling today. The current problem is due to a lack of information about the use (e.g. food/non-food), type of plastic or specific additives etc. within the waste sorting process. R-Cycle provides this information.
Looking at today’s waste streams, even fully recyclable packaging cannot be separated precisely enough to achieve high-quality recycling. With R-Cycle, production machines automatically record all recycling-relevant properties in a digital product passport, pass it on along the value chain and make it accessible via a corresponding marking (e.g. digital watermark or QR code) on the packaging.
Data is recorded where it already exists – this can be done by connecting production lines or ERP systems. In this way, waste sorting plants can identify recyclable packaging and form recyclable and pure fractions. This is the basis for obtaining high-quality recyclates to build a functioning circular economy.
How has your innovation/initiative been received so far?
R-Cycle has been developed to market readiness by a number of technology companies and organizations from across the plastic packaging lifecycle and has already reached an important milestone in terms of standardization. GS1 – the world’s leading network for cross-industry process development – started a project to create an industry guideline based on R-Cycle.
The so-called PDS4CircularPlastics project (processes and data exchange approach to enable circular plastics value creation networks) was started by GS1 Germany in January 2022 and is scheduled to be completed this year. The R-Cycle Community currently includes over 20 leading companies from the packaging industry.
In addition, a large number of pilot projects with different partners, different focal points and applications have proven their worth. As a working solution from the industry, R-Cycle bundles the relevant know-how along the entire value chain. By using open and global standards (GS1), it is accessible to all parties involved – non-discriminatory and interoperable.
You are shortlisted for the Driving the Circular Economy category. What do you think are the key needs, challenges and opportunities to drive circular economy in packaging?
To advance the circular economy, two key factors are essential: fully recyclable packaging and sophisticated recycling processes. The first requirement already exists in the form of numerous recyclable packaging solutions such as mono-material composites and recyclable inks, adhesives and additives.
The second enabler is the precise sorting and high-quality recycling or upcycling of plastic packaging. The use of digital product passports for data-based production and recycling processes holds enormous potential, which we want to unlock with R-Cycle.
The winners of this Sustainability Awards category will be announced at a dinner taking place on September 13-14, 2022 at the Sustainable Packaging Summit in Lisbon. To attend the ceremony, register here.