Plastics recycling is the pillar on which circularity in plastics rests. However, recycling infrastructure and practices are unevenly distributed around the globe.
To move towards a circular economy, more plastic waste needs to be recovered and reused. Yet creating the necessary infrastructure can be a costly and complicated process, which means it is simply not available in many parts of the world.
While huge strides have been made in the development of chemical recycling technologies, the most common recycling method is still the mechanical recycling of plastic. Mechanically recycled waste plastic, however, is not without its challenges for users. It can contain residual impurities. And as a result of the recycling process, the mechanical properties of the material deteriorate.
Circularity is a key goal in plastics today, while consistency and reliability are two much-heard needs when it comes to recycled plastics. An important part of both is traceability.
In a bid to address these issues, BASF Plastic Additives, part of BASF’s Performance Chemicals division, has teamed up with Security Matters Limited, an Australia-based company that owns and has commenced commercializing the technology to permanently and irrevocably “mark” objects, whether solid, liquid or gas, for identification, authentication and tracking purposes.
“By providing transparency of product lifecycles, we can create an entire technology-driven ecosystem that promotes circularity and sustainability for plastics,” said Haggai Alon, founder and CEO of Security Matters.
The two companies have signed a binding joint development agreement to develop solutions for plastics traceability and circularity. Under the agreement, BASF inputs its extensive experience in plastic additives, regulatory know-how, and understanding of the plastics value chain. Both companies will also combine their research & development capabilities and required resources as part of the agreement.
“Together we can accelerate the progress of the plastic industry towards a more innovative, resilient and productive economy,” Alon said.
Security Matters’ system makes it possible to digitise physical objects. The system uses a chemical-based hidden barcode that marks physical objects and connects them to a digital twin, complete with tagging to a digital blockchain record. The barcode will withstand manufacturing and recycling processes, without altering the appearance or performance of the object.
The technology includes a unique reader to identify these codes, and a blockchain record to store and protect the data they contain. This proprietary barcode technology allows a wide variety of information embedded in the plastic to be captured, which can be used for the physical and digital tracking of closed-loop recycling and for the authentication of sustainability claims.
It will also improve the reliability of sorting systems for plastic waste, ultimately enabling a circular and closed loop economy.
“We are jointly developing this game-changing technology that could capture information of the polymer and how the plastic moves through the entire production and distribution process,” said Achim Sties, Senior Vice President, Performance Chemicals Europe, BASF SE.
“We will be able to devise an appropriate additive package for our customers and other players in the value chain using recycled material to capture more material value and increase resource productivity.”