R-Cycle: the Digital Product Passport for sustainable plastics

How the collaboration between top plastic industry players ensured full traceability and visibility of their products, therefore enabling new circular business models, highly efficient process chains and compliance with the upcoming Digital Product Passport regulations.

The challenge

If you look at present-day waste streams, even fully recyclable packaging normally goes to landfills, is burned, or – at worst – ends up in the environment. Only a very low percentage of plastic waste (16%, Germany)* is processed into recyclate.

Taking a closer look, this 16% is down cycled rather than recycled. Due to the mixing of different plastics, recyclate obtained from present-day waste streams can only be used in very basic applications, such as thick-walled injection molded parts or, at best, as black garbage bags. These applications do not allow for any further recycling cycles.

The solution

To achieve a genuine circular economy, a tracing standard is required for plastic packaging, that records all recycling-relevant information collected from the production process in the form of a digital product passport. This passport must be accessible by a marking on the packaging at the end of its lifecycle. In this way, waste sorting facilities can identify fully recyclable packaging by using standard detection technologies. Pure fractions within the recycling process that supply detailed information on their exact composition are the key to obtaining high-quality recyclate for true recycling.

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How it works

Highlights and results

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Current waste sorting applications do not allow for any further recycling cycles. Due to the mixing of different plastics, it gets down cycled rather than recycled.

Functional recycling of plastics in relevant quantities can only be achieved if the recycling plants are able to distinguish between recyclable and non-recyclable packaging. This requires the clear identification of packaging. As a product is processed in many different process steps by different companies along the value chain, a globally recognized standard is necessary.

R-Cycle permits high-quality recycling by tracing the life cycle of packaging. It forms the basis for a functional circular economy. Packaging can be identified precisely in the recycling process by providing the necessary information regarding their ingredients. R-Cycle permits the rapid and precise sorting of recyclable packaging to obtain high-purity sorting fractions. This results in high-quality recyclate which can be processed into a wide range of high-quality plastic products.

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R-Cycle, together with Twintag were able to achieve the following:

  • Show information related to the specific production stage of the package
  • Provide smooth data tracking when printing the films
  • Help identify packaging for recycling
  • Align with the open tracing standard

As a final result, end consumers received access to a fully traceable journey of an end product. By simply scanning a twintag, they can now see information related to the specific production stage of the sample.

The open tracing standard enables a genuine circular economy and highly efficient process chains. Already 26 companies are a part of the R-Cycle consortium which offers solutions to meet the sustainability trend and become a preferred supplier of sustainable products that are in global demand. In the future, such a solution can enable the recycling of the finished packaging back to the raw materials thanks to the data containing the information regarding the materials the product was primarily made of.

Check out how other industries benefited from Twintag solutions here.

What is R-Cycle

R-Cycle is the open tracing standard for sustainable plastic packaging. As a cross-industry consortium, they are working on an open and globally applicable tracing standard to ensure the seamless documentation of recyclable packaging along the value chain – stored on a common data platform. The platform is accessible to any production facility, from plastic film or injection molding machines 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 is developed to market maturity by a number of technology companies and organizations across the entire value chain. The tracing technology behind R-Cycle is based on GS1 standards – the leading global network for cross-industry process development used by more than six billion scanned barcodes every day.

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