19. Jul 2021
R-Cycle - the digital product passport for sustainable plastics – has been named the winner of the German Sustainability Award 2021 in the "Packaging" category.
The award is conferred by the German Institute for Service Quality (DISQ), the German news channel ntv, and DUP UNTERNEHMER (German Entrepreneurship Platform for Digitalization and Sustainability). The award is held under the patronage of Brigitte Zypries, a former Federal Minister (ret.).
Plastic packaging has become an indispensable part of our everyday lives and there is often no alternative - such as in medical technology or in the packaging of perishable foodstuffs. However, the problems associated with the growing global demand for plastic packaging cannot be overlooked and are becoming increasingly acute. For example, even in the "recycling land" of Germany, only about 6% of plastics from domestic waste are recycled to make equivalent new products. The largest percentage of over 65% is burned in waste incinerators.
One reason for the low recycling rate is the present difficulty to identify the different compositions of plastic packaging in the recycling process. Sorting is considerably improved when a digital product passport is affixed to plastic packaging to display this information. The R-Cycle cross-industry consortium is working on an open and globally applicable traceability standard to ensure the seamless documentation of recyclable packaging along the value chain – stored on a common data platform. It is accessible to any production facility, from plastic film or injection moulding machines through to converting, printing, and filling machines. To retrieve the stored information, a marker – for example a QR or digital watermark code – is applied to the packaging. R-Cycle, in other words, functions as the type of digital passport described above. It is based on an open standard and is machine-readable via special markings.
R-Cycle automatically registers all recycling-related properties during packaging production and passes this information along the value chain. Waste sorting plants can then identify recyclable packaging and form recyclable fractions. This is the basis for obtaining pure and therefore high-quality recyclates as part of efforts to set up a functioning circular economy.
"We are delighted to receive this award," says Dr. Benedikt Brenken, Director of the R-Cycle Initiative. "Digitalization and sustainability are two megatrends that we have integrated beneficially in R-Cycle. The use of a digital product passport, as also required by the European Union, offers enormous potential to increase the recycling rate of plastic packaging."