The plastics industry needs to start thinking about how radio frequency identification technology will affect recycling, because those tiny computer chips with all the details that supply-chain managers love will start making their way into packaging.
At least that's the word from a manufacturer of RFID tags, who told a plastics industry environmental conference that the RFID industry is trying to gauge what affect the metals, adhesives and other materials used in the tags will have on the recycling stream.
Randy Stigall, director of emerging applications for UPM Rafsec, said he thinks companies like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and agencies like the Department of Defense, which have been pushing the technology, will start to require RFID tags on some packaging in 2006 or 2007.
The technology is likely to remain too expensive for things like soft drink bottles for several years, but will start to appear first on expensive items and in their packaging, including stretch wrap and other transport packaging that winds up being recycled, Stigall said.
Stigall, who worked in package development and engineering for consumer products maker Procter & Gamble Co. for 31 years before joining Tampere, Finland-based UPM in 2002, spoke at the Global Plastics Environmental Conference, which was held Feb. 24-25 in Atlanta.
RFID tags are made with silver, copper or aluminum as antennae, adhesives to apply the tags and various plastics, such as polypropylene and acrylics. Stigall said the RFID industry wants to make the impact on recycling manageable, but he also said the cost of RFID is likely to be pushed down the supply chain.
He laid out a suggested three-year time frame for the plastics industry: conduct studies in 2005, run recycling pilots in 2006 and present recommendations to the RFID industry in 2007.
Stigall said the GPEC presentation was his first before the plastics industry, but he said that he wants to contact recycling groups.