The 4 Rs - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Jan 24, 2012 @ 03:34 PM

Tags: Recycling, RFID, Waste Management, Smart Packaging

Sustainable PackagingThe next time you walk through the office, take a count of how many of those blue recycling bins you see until you reach your destination.  Chances are, you’ll be running out of fingers and toes before you reach the other side of the building.  The reason I point this out is because of the three proverbial legs of the recycling stool – reduce and reuse being the others – recycling is by far the most popular and easiest to implement.  This holds true across office environments and the shipping world.

While there have been some interesting developments on the reduction front in recent years with companies finding new and innovative ways to make packaging smaller, reusable packaging has been an area that has evaded progress; until now anyway. During Pack Expo Las Vegas 2011, several prominent consumer brands, including the likes of Coca-Cola, Ghirardelli Chocolate and Alpha Baking, presented case studies on the topic of reusable packaging.

There had been a lot of talk in the past about implementing RFID into packaging, yet the cost continued to be an inhibitor.  However, what is gaining steam in the shipping world is the use of RFID tags in reusable assets such as trays, crates and pallets where there is cost incentive for companies to find and reuse the shipping assets. 

In the case of Alpha Baking, they have introduced a test program where they have implemented RFID tags in 8% of their estimated 350,000 reusable trays.  The company uses RFID readers to obtain valuable data that helps improve shipping processes and prevent losses of these reusable assets. You may recall the blog we did on container tracking to prevent fraud. Now RFID brings about another benefit to the distribution market – enabling sustainability.

The key to making sustainable packaging successful is to have all three elements working effectively.  If one of those areas is neglected, it has a negative impact on the entire process.  One could easily make the case that reusable packaging is the most important of the three and yet perhaps the hardest to implement. RFID allows companies to track these important assets, saving them money and greatly reducing the number of units needed, and ultimately discarded. We all know that creating waste is counter to the philosophy of three Rs. Four Rs gets us even closer to the sustainability goal.

No Greenwashing Here: How RFID Helps the Environment (Part 3)

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Aug 02, 2010 @ 12:26 PM

Tags: Waste Management, RFID Recycling Programs, Smart Packaging

RFIDS for Recycling Incentive Programs, Waste Hauling Automation and Smart Packaging

A few recycling facts:

  • Enough energy is saved by recycling one aluminum can to run a TV set for three hours.
  • Recycling just one out of every ten plastic bottles would keep 200 million pounds of plastic out of landfills each year.
  • The average American uses 650 pounds of paper during the course of one year. 100 million tons of wood could be saved each year if all used paper was recycled.
  • A steel mill that uses recycled scrap reduces related water pollution, air pollution, and mining wastes by at least 70 percent.
(source: epa.gov)

Decreasing the amount of waste that households and businesses produce and discard has become a worldwide focus in order to reduce polution and conserve our Earth's resources for future generations.  To achieve this, recycling, resource conservation and pollution reduction programs of all kinds are being implemented across the globe. Over the last several years, it has become increasingly clear that the use of RFID technology can help streamline and encourage participation in these programs.  Here are a few examples how:

Recycling Incentive Programs

Recycling incentive programs embed RFID tags into curbside recycling bins at residences in order to identify bin ownership.  RFID readers located on trash hauling trucks combine data from the RFID tags with the bin weight in order to issue credits to participants based on the amount of recyclable material they contribute.  Program participants can then cash in their credits at national retailers or local businesses.

RecycleBankWith offices in New York and Philadelphia, RecycleBank, is a leader in the recycling rewards program market. RecycleBank partners with cities and waste haulers to reward households for recycling. Households earn RecycleBank Points that can be used to shop at over 1,500 local and national businesses.  As of this post, RecycleBank claims it is operating in more than 300 communities across 26 states and the United Kingdom.  Check out a cool video on RecycleBank’s website detailing their service.

R4RSimilarly, with a mission of making community curb-side recycling a benefit for all, Michigan-based Rewards for Recycling encourages recycling in communities through reward-based partnerships with municipalities, residents, area businesses, and waste haulers.  They’ve got videos on their site too, including The Story of Stuff, an amazing video created by Annie Leonard to promote a more sustainable and just world.  

Waste Management Process Improvement

With significant improvements in performance over the last several years, UHF RFID tags and readers have matured to the point where they have become a dominant technology in the waste management market, providing a high-performance alternative HF RFID which has been used for early market solutions.  The combination of UHF RFID tags and ruggedized UHF RFID readers not only enables service offerings like recycling incentive programs, but provides an opportunty to improve many existing manual processes.  By RFID-enabling hauling vehicles and bins, waste management companies can automate customer billing data entry and track missing or stolen containers.  Integration with complementary technologies like GPS and telematics systems can also improve route planning and vehicle efficiency monitoring.

Smart Packaging

Innovations in smart packaging are also being used to help reduce waste.  In addition to adding safety mechanisms such as tamper-proofing and providing the ability to measure the freshness of produce, information from RFID and sensor enabled smart packaging can be used by to help sort packaging materials in waste streams.

These are just a few examples of the numerous applications where RFID is making a positive impact on the environment.  We expect to explore more during our 100 uses of RFID campaign.  In the meantime, we would love for you to share other RFID-enabled recycling applications that you know about with us.

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