Digital deposit return scheme trial set for London as DDRS Alliance and Polytag join forces

AIPIA member Polytag, which has played a leading role in DRS trials with UK retailers including the Co-op and Ocado, has joined forces with not-for-profit company the DDRS Alliance, whose members include Circularity Solutions, Recycl3r, ACE UK, Tetra Pak and Valpak, to plan a digital deposit scheme trial in London using technology from Polytag, Both organizations use GS1 Digital Link QR codes.

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 they say. Last year the companies ran separate trials, both of which were reported in the AIPIA newsletter. 

DDRS Alliance undertook a 16-week trial in Brecon, Wales, the first time an entire town had trialled DDRS, with the majority of soft drinks retailers participating. The scheme involved Nestlé Waters in a broad-based trial across drink containers and material types that include glass, metal, and plastic PET bottles as well as paperboard cartons. 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, it claims.

Polytag ran a nationwide pilot demonstrating the DDRS process alongside Ocado Retail, which in just 56 days and saw over 20,000 20p rewards claimed by Ocado customers via their smartphones. The scheme also enabled the online retailer 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.

The DDRS Alliance is currently planning a major urban trial in London, which will feature, for the first time, Polytag’s tech running alongside that used in Brecon. The two organisations said they had pledged to work collaboratively and leverage their experience and expertise to demonstrate the viability and convenience of DDRS. The Alliance has recently published a Digital DRS Charter which is designed to ensure alignment across all major DRS stakeholders in the UK and beyond. 

Both the Alliance and Polytag use GS1 Digital Link QR codes to simplify DDRS. The GS1 organisation forecasts brands will begin replacing traditional product barcodes with two-dimensional smart QR codes from 2027, promoted under the Sunrise 2027 banner. The QR codes can be used to increase supply chain visibility, authenticate products for retailers, and consumer engagement.

“Deposit return schemes have demonstrated across Europe that consumers respond to a financial incentive to return drink containers for recycling,” said Duncan Midwood, co-founder of the DDRS Alliance. “Digital DRS brings the solution to the modern day by providing consumers with a more convenient solution mirroring their lifestyles. DDRS Alliance is well positioned to co-ordinate the development of DDRS, 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 are already seeing the benefits of digitally supported recycling systems. It is high time 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.”

AWA and AIPIA Smart Labeling Chicago

AIPIA and AWA Smart Packaging World Congress Amsterdam

« News feed