AMRC Cymru helping digitise reusable packaging

28 March 2022

The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) Cymru has partnered with a world leader in flexible electronics to make reusable packaging systems a reality.

The TRACE (Technology-enabled Reusable Assets for a Circular Economy) project, led by PragmatIC Semiconductor, will use the company’s ultra-low-cost NFC (Near Field Communication Technology), to give reusable containers unique digital identities (UIDs) so packages can be efficiently and effectively returned and reused.

The UIDs will be used throughout the lifecycle of the packages: firstly, by every part of the supply chain to track each item and provide detailed data that will demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits; and secondly by consumers to access their deposits or rewards, thereby building enduring relationships with brands and retailers.

Scott White, CEO of PragmatIC, says packing is the dominant generator of plastic waste and they are continuously looking for ways in which the company can use their technology to reduce that impact.

He said: “TRACE brings together leading academic and industry expertise to prove that reuse at scale will deliver significant benefits to the planet. This is why leading global packaging companies are working with us to accelerate the path to intelligent packaging.”

As part of the project, a team of AMRC Cymru engineers, multi-disciplined in design, data, software, control and automation, will develop and demonstrate an innovative automated, sorting-system, which is able to identify and sort packaging from a conveyor, using information read from the packaging UID. 

Jason Murphy, Operations Director at AMRC Cymru, says that enabling reusable packaging is a complex challenge: “We are excited to be developing an innovative sorting solution using the low-cost NFC technology that will help close the loop and significantly contribute to delivering the UK plastic-pact targets.

“This project has the potential to have significant and long-lasting impact on a number of sectors and it’s great that the innovations are coming out of AMRC Cymru.”

Other academic and industry partners working on the 24-month project include the University of Sheffield, RECOUP, Topolytics and Ken Mills Engineering.

This project has been awarded funding through the Innovate UK, Smart Sustainability Plastic Packaging business project, as part of £30 million of funding for 18 collaborative projects that support the achievement of the UK Plastics Pact and have the potential to alter the country’s relationship with the management of plastic packaging. 

For further information about PragmatIC, visit: https://www.pragmaticsemi.com

Get in touch with the AMRC Cymru team here.

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