British multinational retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) has joined forces with recycling technology company Polytag to trace the life cycle of its plastic packaging, the Guardian reported. 

This initiative will allow the retailer to monitor the journey of its drinks bottles, cartons, and other plastic containers through the recycling process.  

The Polytag system involves printing an invisible tag on packaging, which can be detected by electronic readers at recycling centres. 

M&S products with these tags are expected to hit the shelves in the next three months.  

Different aspects of the technology have undergone tests with other domestic retailers, including Aldi, Ocado, and Co-op.

However, this partnership with M&S marks the first full-scale use of the system, the newspaper reported.

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As part of the project, M&S will fund the installation of two electronic readers at its recycling sites in Northern Ireland and Edmonton, London.  

These will add to the company’s existing readers in Teesside and Wales.  

The Government of Wales is funding the deployment of readers at three more recycling centres. 

Polytag aims to have a presence in more than 12 sites within a year, covering approximately 50% of the UK’s single-use plastic household waste recycled.  

The company anticipates further expansion to 48 sites, which would account for 95% of household waste recycling in the UK. 

This partnership comes ahead of the implementation of the UK government’s extended producer responsibility (EPR) regime, which will require retailers to pay fees for the disposal of their plastic packaging. 

The legislation is set to come into force next year. 

Polytag CEO Alice Rackley told the publication that its system will facilitate the sorting of plastic containers, distinguishing those that contain food from those with household chemicals. 

“There is a massive single-use plastic crisis and we have got to start collecting data about it and to use that to try and sort it out,” Rackley added.