Sidel is helping to make the circular economy a reality by joining R-Cycle, the open tracing standard for sustainable plastic packaging.
The global packaging solutions company is now a member of R-Cycle, a community designing digital ‘product passports’ to accelerate the recycling of plastic packaging around the world.
Using an open tracing standard, R-Cycle allows gathering of information about the recycling-related properties of plastic packaging. These details, stored on a common data platform, can then be automatically accessed and recorded by any production machinery along the value chain, from packaging manufacturers and converters to the recycling industry. This ultimately enables waste-sorting lines to identify recyclable packaging and so help create recycling-friendly and pure materials for reprocessing into a wide range of high-grade plastic products.
Francesca Bellucci, Sidel’s Sustainability Portfolio Director, Product Innovation and Marketing, says “Sidel recently joined R-Cycle because we want to continue playing a key role in bringing the circular economy to life. Having a global standard that connects partners from around the world across the plastic packaging lifecycle to record and retrieve all relevant packaging properties will hugely benefit product sustainability. It will improve manufacturing processes as well as the quality of recyclates, resulting in the implementation of a genuinely circular economy.”
Dr. Benedikt Brenken, Director R-Cycle, adds: “It is great to see how our community is constantly growing with forward-looking partners from the packaging industry who are uniting their high innovative strength under the R-Cycle flag. Sidel is contributing important impetus here and its clear commitment to a functioning circular economy, which will move us forward together.”
Making recycling more effective
Currently, recyclable plastic packaging cannot be separated precisely enough from waste streams to achieve high-quality recycling, and this has been a significant factor in current low recycling rates – only 9% of plastic waste is ultimately recycled.
There are two acknowledged barriers to effective plastics recycling. One is creating more fully recyclable packaging, an area in which Sidel is helping customers advance by fostering PET adoption, the most recycled plastic material available to date. The other is in increasing the sophistication of the recycling processes, which is R-Cycle’s key focus.
R-Cycle will benefit manufacturers worldwide by improving process efficiency and product quality. Having precise information about source materials helps speed up production; and recording product properties adds value for their customers.
R-Cycle was developed by a number of technology companies and organizations from across the lifecycle chain of plastic packaging, and Sidel will contribute to further development, as a leading provider of solutions for packaging of beverages, food, home and personal care products.
The digital product passport will also help with compliance and in providing the information needed to meet both current and future requirements from customers and legislators, such as calculating carbon footprint, and in Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), a policy approach to make producers responsible for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products. R-Cycle also offers a viable solution to the European Union’s Circular Economy Action Plan, which seeks traceability of plastic packaging to ensure its recyclability, including tracking and managing information about resources, and the digitization of product data.
How R-Cycle works
R-Cycle’s globally applicable open tracing standard permits seamless documentation stored on a common data platform that can be accessed by any production facility, from plastic film or injection/blow moulding machines to converting, and filling machines, through to waste sorting and recycling lines. It enables a material’s recycling-related properties to be captured and made retrievable via an appropriate marker such as a digital watermark or QR code on the packaging. The underlying tracing technology behind R-Cycle is based on GS1 standards – the leading global network for cross-industry process development; it is already being used by various industries worldwide, for example in tracing fresh food products.
Francesca Bellucci concludes: “By connecting all value-added partners along the cycle, R-Cycle is the basis for obtaining high-quality recyclates to establish a working circular economy.”
 OECD, Global Plastics Outlook, February 2022.