Polytag Biffa Teesside

Source: Polytag

The programme will use a network of UV tag detection equipment deployed in recycling centres

Marks & Spencer is to track how much of its single-use plastic packaging enters the recycling stream, in a pilot of tech to help businesses navigate extended producer responsibility.

The retailer is working with Polytag, the recycling tech firm that is also set to help power the first urban trial of a digital deposit return scheme later this year in London.

M&S will use Polytag’s invisible UV tags, which are printed onto labels at production, to collect real-time data on where, when and how much of its single-use plastic packaging is collected and sorted at recycling centres.

The pilot sees M&S become a founding member of the ‘Polytag Ecotrace Programme’, which will use a network of UV tag detection equipment to be deployed in “strategically chosen recycling centres that handle high volumes of waste”.

The detection equipment will identify the presence of the invisible UV tags and therefore any single-use plastic from M&S.

The “never-before-seen data” will provide M&S with a verified benchmark for understanding its plastic packaging recycling rates, according to Polytag.

Polytag is inviting fmcg brands and other retailers to join the programme to “unlock granular data on over 50% of the UK’s household waste recycling stream”.

From next year, brands will “need to take responsibility for packaging materials” as EPR requirements come into force, making them liable for the cost of recycling, said Polytag CEO Alice Rackley.

But currently they have “no visibility of what happens to [their] single-use plastic once it has been put in the bin”.

“Not only does our Ecotrace Programme aim to solve this problem by bringing together leading players across the UK to capture barcode-level information on single-use plastic, but it stands as an example of what passion and collaboration paired with tangible action can do,” said Rackley.

“We would like to thank M&S for being the first partner to join our new initiative. Other businesses that are interested in joining the programme should get in touch and become part of this story, which is set to shake up the industry.”