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Viability of Digital Deposit Return Schemes trialled with Ocado

25 November 2022

Recycling technology company, Polytag, and Ocado Retail have announced a world-first trial to test the viability of a Digital Deposit Return Scheme (DDRS) in the UK. 

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The trial will test the feasibility of a key component of a DDRS – the application of ‘unique-every-time’ QR codes to packaging, which will be applied to Ocado Retail’s recyclable two-pint and four-pint milk bottles, made from at least 30% recycled material, over the course of the next 12 weeks.
This will enable households to scan their discarded packaging from home before recycling it, and redeem a deposit via a mobile app, when legislation is finally enforced. Until now, it has only been possible to print ‘unique-every-time’ QR codes using digital label printing, at significantly reduced speeds and far higher costs.
Upon scanning the QR codes, consumers will also receive instructions and a clear call-to-action for shoppers, further simplifying the recycling process.
A recent report from the independent environmental consultancy, Resource Futures, estimated that an all-in DDRS would result in cost savings of £3.4bn over an 11 year period, compared to other models, largely thanks to eliminating the need for the nationwide installation of reverse vending machines. 
Polytag’s QR code and app-based mobile phone technology is also built to meet GS1 standards, following its approval by GS1 UK earlier this year. This means recyclable goods can be tracked and traced through the circular economy, providing stakeholders with never-before-seen packaging lifecycle information, and opportunities to collaborate easily through the use of global, interoperable data standards.
Commenting on the trial, Alice Rackley, CEO at Polytag, said: “This world-first trial will have game-changing implications for recycling in this country. A successful trial, supported by the world's largest online-only supermarket, Ocado Retail, will be a significant step towards the implementation of a DDRS in this country that will provide a much more convenient and environmentally friendly way for households to recover their deposits. Not only that, brands will be presented with radical new marketing tools and a wealth of data on how consumers are recycling their products.”
Additionally, the trial will provide brands and retailers with a direct-to-consumers marketing channel, on a national scale, enabling them to tell their sustainability stories to increasingly eco-conscious shoppers. Upon scanning the QR code, consumers access landing pages - built by Ocado Retail – to share customised campaigns and links out to relevant content and reward schemes.

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