M&S first to launch full-scale plastic packaging tracing scheme

M&S is the first retailer to move to the full-scale use of a drinks bottles, cartons and plastic packaging tracing scheme.

The company is partnering with Polytag, which prints invisible tags on packaging which are then read by electronic readers within recycling centres, for the scheme. The tags will appear on goods across M&S shelves within three months.

M&S will fund two readers at recycling sites in Northern Ireland and Edmonton in North London. There are already readers in recycling plants in Teesside and north Wales, while the Welsh government is investing in the installation of readers at three further recycling centres this year.

By 2025 Polytag hopes to have readers in 12 sites, which would account for the recycling of half of all single-use plastic household waste in the UK. It hopes to then expand that to four times that amount with 48 UK sites that account for 95% of household waste recycling.


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Retailers including the Co-op, Aldi and Ocado have already tested elements of the scheme with Ocado also investing in the company – but M&S is the first to move to full-scale use.

Other retailers will be asked to fund additional readers to aid the expansion.

Polytag CEO Alice Rackley told The Guardian that the M&S scheme would help aid the sorting of plastic pots and bottles that contained food from contaminated items such as bleach bottles.

“There is a massive single-use plastic crisis and we have got to start collecting data about it and to use that to try and sort it out,” she said.

From 2025, retailers will need to pay towards plastic packaging disposal as part of the government’s extended producer responsibility programme.

The hope is that retailers can negotiate lower EPR fees if they can show that goods have been properly recycled. Waste disposal partners can also be better held to account that they have disposed of plastic responsibly.

Climate crisisMaterials and packagingNewsRetailSupply Chain

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