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29 March, 2021 - 21:09 By Tony Quested

Government pays PragmatIC £1.3m to turn waste into wealth

Cambridge-based flexible electronics pioneer PragmatIC Semiconductor has won a UK government grant for applying its technology to a bleeding edge recycling scheme based on its ultra-low-cost Near Field Communication technology. 

The business has clinched £1.3 million from the UK Government Sustainable Innovation Fund in an initiative code-named SPRITE (Sustainable Plastics Recycling Innovation by Tagging Electronically).

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles and refillable packaging will be given unique digital IDs to support automated identification and recycling.

PragmatIC will deliver a system that works alongside existing return and recycling schemes and uses ultra-low-cost NFC to uniquely identify Fast Moving Consumer Goods packaging so consumers can collect rewards anywhere using a network of smart recycling points and their existing kerbside recycling collections.

Worldwide more than one million plastic bottles are made every single minute and less than 10 per cent of those are collected and turned into new bottles. The rest are landfilled, incinerated or littered – polluting the environment. 

Deposit return schemes are already well proven to increase recycling rates, with leading systems recovering over 90 per cent of the containers which have a deposit on them. But these are built around returning bottles to grocery stores and require well-developed and often rigid state or nationwide processes to be in place. 

The new and innovative project will also demonstrate the use of NFC to enhance refillable packaging models, where it can be used to encourage re-use and also provide the merchant with actionable data. 

Studies have shown that access to re-use and recycling opportunities is one of the key drivers for changing public behaviour.

Scott White, CEO of PragmatIC Semiconductor, said: “We are thrilled to have won this contract which furthers our mission to enable electronic solutions that improve everyday life.

“This is one of a number of initiatives where customers are using our technology to have a positive and lasting impact on the sustainability of our planet’s resources.”

As part of the project, PragmatIC will be working with leading global FMCG companies, who see NFC labels as a route to frictionless consumer engagement in recycling and in particular enabling refillable packaging models. PragmatIC’s technology makes NFC more affordable for these high volume FMCG applications.

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