Ocado is launching a new on-pack technology trial that claims to be a “breakthrough moment” in how online retailers tackle single-use plastic.
Designed to support the existing digital deposit return scheme (DDRS), the latest product packaging marks the very first time an online-only retailer has introduced a scheme like this.
Ocado Retail has partnered with Wales-based DDRS pioneer Polytag for the three-month trial, which will see 1.6 million of the retailer’s fully recyclable milk bottles feature QR codes which can be scanned to receive detailed recycling information.
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DDRS depends on ‘unique-every-time’ QR codes applied to every item of packaging before it is available for purchase.
Rather than having to redeem their deposit in-store, once an item is used, consumers can use their mobile phones to scan the code and discard the item in an existing recycling bin and redeem a deposit into their mobile wallet.
DDRS exponents believe the technology could work alongside the rollout of a more traditional deposit return scheme, involving reverse vending machines (RVMs) in retail stores in a hybrid system.
Ocodo also flagged research by consultants Resource Futures claiming an ‘all in’ DDRS system could save the government £3.4bn over 11 years by eliminating the need for a network of RVMs.
“As the world’s largest online supermarket, we champion the use of innovative technology as we strive to become the UK’s most sustainable grocery retailer,” Ocado Retail senior packaging and sustainability manager, Laura Fernandez said.
She added: “Polytag’s digital platform offers plenty of environmental and economic benefits for retailers and customers alike – it’s easy to use and when used at scale, could have a hugely positive impact on the nation’s deposit return scheme.”
The ‘world-first’ trial will have “game-changing implications for recycling in this country,” Polytag CEO, Alice Rackley said.
“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, but brands will also be presented with radical new marketing tools and a wealth of data on how consumers are recycling their products,” Rackley said.
Jayne Paramor, strategic technical manager at Wrap also gave her thoughts: “Ocado Retail is establishing vital partnerships with fellow UK Plastics Pact members and wider industry, to lead this important work on DDRS to expand understanding of how we can improve our recycling.
“We need to focus our attention on positive, impactful changes and look forward to seeing the outcomes of the trial,” Paramor added.
The news comes as plant-based meal brand allplants is set to roll out in supermarkets for the first time, launching in Ocado and Planet Organic this month.