M&S to track whether its plastic packaging is recycled

Image: M&S

The Polytag Ecotrace Programme aims to revolutionise the UK’s packaging recycling system by applying invisible Ultraviolet (UV) tags onto labels during production, primarily on recycled PET plastic materials.

Once the packaging item enters the recycling stream, a Polytag UV tag reader identifies the tag, enabling accurate sorting and cleaner feedstock for UK-sourced recycled PET packaging materials.

As a founding member, M&S will gain insights into the collection and sorting of its single-use plastic packaging at UK recycling centres. This data will provide M&S with benchmarks regarding the recycling rates of its plastic packaging, tracked down to the barcode level.

M&S is aiming for all of its packaging to be recyclable by 2025. It has also pledged to reduce its single-use plastic packaging output for food products by 30% by 2027.

Polytag is inviting fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands, retailers and waste management businesses to participate and unlock data on items which account for more than 50% of the UK’s household waste recycling stream.

Polytag’s chief executive Alice Rackley said: “Currently, FMCG brands have no visibility of what happens to their single-use plastic once it has been put in the bin.

“As Extended Producer Responsibility legislation comes into force, brands will need to take responsibility for packaging materials.”

The UK Government is transitioning the packaging compliance system from the Packaging Waste Directive 2007 to an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) format. This reform is designed to decrease packaging and enhance packaging recyclability.

In the reformed EPR system, the responsibility and cost of collecting and managing household packaging waste will transfer from local authorities to packaging producers.

Rackley added: “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.”

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