Plastics recycling builds the business case for blockchain

The first blockchain recycling product capable of increasing recycling rates is being built so that recycling service providers and large-scale producers can make better buying decisions while improving the environment.
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

Estimates suggest there are 400 million tons of plastic produced each year, which is projected to more than double by 2050. Around 40% of plastic packaging is said to be landfilled, with another 32% leaked into the environment and not reused, according to the World Economic Forum.

But recycling is a difficult business. The whole process is full of inefficiencies, has many stakeholders, and a lack of digital data to track a product's journey from creation to destruction. The challenge for the recycling business is supply chain visibility and traceability.

Irvington, N.J.-based recycling technology solutions provider RecycleGO is using Hyperledger Fabric, an open-sourced blockchain framework, to build a platform for any type of recyclable material to be tracked throughout its lifecycle.

By tracking activity on a decentralized ledger, its blockchain solution will provide traceability and accountability throughout the recycling journey

Phase 1 of the multi-phase project will allow project collaborators to identify the entire history of a particular plastic bottle -- from the moment it gets created, collected, converted back to its raw material form, and shipped back to the manufacturer to make another plastic bottle.

The technology will provide irrefutable proof of good environmental behavior for everyone involved throughout the recycling supply chain.

Participants in the recycling blockchain technology should expect to see 15% to 20% savings from supply chain optimizations during this phase.

The company is forming collaborations with international, household brands, many of which have publicly pledged to reach 25% recycled content by 2025. With less than five years to go, this is quite a goal: the recycling rate is around 8% today.

Although the market wants more recycled material, the industry does not have enough content to support it as consumers do not appear to be recycling enough product to satisfy demand.

RecycleGO founder Stan Chen said: "What we have is the world's first comprehensive and inclusive blockchain solution that allows any kind of material to be tracked, and any kind of stakeholder can join."

The proof of concept phase will be completed in winter 2020 and is currently focused on scanning QR codes on plastic bottles

Being able to touch every stakeholder, every material, at every point of the recycling process will go some way to get from the current 8% recycling to the goal of 100%.

Hopefully, customer buy-in will help realize this goal and make every plastic item a recycled piece of plastic that can be tracked wherever in the lifecycle it happens to be.

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