Smart Food Packaging Presents Recycling Challenges

Connector Spring 2017

In the run up to this year’s Super Bowl, US snack company Frito-Lay launched a limited run of microchipped bags of tortilla chips, supposedly capable of sensing alcohol on a user’s breath and, if instructed, calling them an Uber home.

It was a stunt to grab attention but the use of interactive, intelligent packaging is not a futuristic fantasy. Already, you can find olive oil and craft beers connected to the cloud and ready to report on their origins to anyone with a smartphone.

This kind of interactive packaging isn’t new: scannable codes that can be used by consumers to find out more about the products they are buying, such as the farm their eggs came from, have been in use for some time.

As well as printed codes, other technologies include electronic chips of the kind used by iOlive and Frito-Lay, and RFID (radio frequency ID) tags, to date found mostly in supply chain logistics.

In the future, spray-on electronics technology – currently at research stage – could be used in place of the chips, making it easier to integrate with plastic and paper packaging, while Bluetooth tags could actively push information to enabled smartphones.

For proponents, internet-connected packaging promises a range of benefits: greater transparency, more efficient logistics, even an easing of household burdens. But embedding electronics into packaging also raises recycling issues.

However, proponents say smart packaging tags could help boost recycling rates by carrying information on what materials have been used in particular products and how to recycle them.

Source: The Guardian