Polytag and DDRS Alliance to partner in digital DRS push

POLYTAG and DDRS Alliance have announced a collaboration to accelerate the development and adoption of digital DRS in the UK.

The two organisations have pledged to work collaboratively to leverage their experience and expertise to demonstrate the viability and convenience of a digital DRS. The timing of the partnership is motivated by a shared intention to deliver a viable solution for digital DRS in the UK and other European countries.

DDRS Alliance has recently published a Digital DRS Charter which is designed to ensure alignment across all major DRS stakeholders in the UK and beyond. It is hoped that all Digital DRS proponents and DRS stakeholders will sign up to the principles outlined in the charter.

Polytag and DDRS Alliance both utilise GS1 Digital Link QR codes to facilitate a digital DRS. GS1 forecasts that brands will begin replacing traditional product barcodes with two-dimensional smart QR codes from 2027. These QR codes can be used as a tool to increase supply chain visibility, authenticate products for retailers, and extend the label for consumers, through additional features and benefits designed to engage consumers with rich, dynamic content and engage through loyalty & reward schemes, Polytag said.

The collaboration comes after several successful trials from the respective parties demonstrating both the technical readiness and consumer appeal of a Digital DRS.

Last year, DDRS Alliance proved ‘strong UK consumer appetite’ for a digital DRS solution in its ‘groundbreaking’ 16-week trial in Brecon, Wales. The ‘scan recycle reward’ trial ran, for the first time, across an entire town with ‘virtually all’ soft drinks retailers participating. The trial demonstrated that consumers prefer a range of return options offered by Digital DRS, including kerbside returns. 1,500 users returned 19,000 containers with 58% being returned via kerbside collections.

Polytag successfully ran the world-first nationwide pilot demonstrating the Digital DRS process alongside UK major retailer, Ocado Retail, boasting an 87% return rate for consumers that engaged with on-pack QR codes. In just 56 days, over 20,000 20p rewards were claimed by Ocado customers via their smartphones. The scheme also enabled the online retailer world-first real-time insights into where, when, and how much of its two- and four-litre HDPE milk bottles were being recycled – tracking packaging from point of label manufacture through to recycling centre at barcode-level.

DDRS Alliance is currently planning a ‘significant’ follow-up urban trial which will feature, for the first time, Polytag’s tech running alongside that already proven in the Brecon trial.

Duncan Midwood, co-founder of DDRS Alliance, said, “Deposit return schemes have demonstrated across Europe that consumers respond to a financial incentive to return drink containers for recycling. Digital DRS brings the solution to the modern day by providing consumers with a more convenient solution mirroring their lifestyles. DDRS Alliance is uniquely positioned to coordinate the development of digital DRS ensuring tech companies, such as Polytag, can deliver their solutions within a well-defined and standardised framework. We are excited about working more closely with Polytag and hope DRS stakeholders across the World will sign up to the digital DRS Charter and join us.”

Alice Rackley, CEO of Polytag, added, “Countries across Europe, like Serbia and Spain, are already seeing and reaping the benefits of digitally supported recycling systems. It is high time that more nations, including the UK, do the same. Our collaboration with DDRS Alliance will ensure we can strengthen our position and continue to demonstrate why a digital scheme will be better for brands, retailers, government, consumers and the environment. We will integrate our scalable, practical, and above all, ready-to-deploy solution into existing infrastructure across the UK and further afield.”