UK project to tag plastic waste with RFID

August 02, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
UK project to tag plastic waste with RFID
The SORT-IT project aims to digitise waste sorting using PragmatIC‘s ultra-low-cost RFID tags

PragmatIC Semiconductor is leading a project to tag plastic to improve the quality of recycling materials.

The SORT-IT project aims to give food grade packaging a unique digital RFID tag to help the tracking and separation of packaging waste in a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). This would use flexible polyimide RFID tags produced in volume by PragmatIC.

Food and drink packaging manufacturers are struggling to secure enough high-quality, Food Grade PET plastics (FGPET) to meet their statutory targets for recycled content. This is because even in countries with a good collection infrastructure, like the UK, the co-mingled nature of the recovered material makes it very difficult to separate the FGPET from other plastics. This results in, at best, downcycling of valuable FGPET, most often to fibre; or in the worse case, losing it to landfill. With the projected demand for rFGPET (recycled FGPET) outstripping present supply.

SORT-IT is one of a number of initiatives to increase capture of the FGPET  material, and if successful this could lead to MRFs being able to grade their plastic output and appropriately price the different bundles efficiently with a roll out in 2022.

This would require millions of the 13.56MHz ConnectIC ultra low cost plastic RFID tags from PragmatIC, as well as an infrastructure of RFID readers in the recycling plants, hence the focus on higher value recycling of food grade plastics.

“We are excited to be leading another project that will use our technology to have a positive and lasting impact on the sustainability of our planet’s resources,” said Scott White, CEO of PragmatIC Semiconductor. “The problem of circularity is a complex one, and we see embedded electronics has the potential to be activated at multiple points through the life of a package, solving a part of the puzzle at each stage.”

As part of the project, PragmatIC is collaborating with a range of companies in this ecosystem who believe intelligent labels offer interesting possibilities in sorting. “This feasibility study will provide a much needed proof point for the Return on Investment (ROI) of sorting using RFID,” said Bobby Manesh, Research Lead at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre Cymru (AMRC). “With the data gained we expect to be able to take this project forward to larger scale deployments with partners in 2022.”

PragmatIC is also part of a project for smart labels of pork to reduce food waste and increase the traceability. The SecQuAL (Secure Quality Assured Logistics for Digital Food Ecosystems) project includes IBM and the Food Safety Agency.

It has previously demonstrated the roll of RFID tags for medical applications.

www.pragmaticsemi.com

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