When tags interfere with recycling
Massive use of Radio-Frequency Identification poses new challenges in separation of waste
Some consumers have already taken notice of them: ever more packaging with adhesive tags or unusual labelling. It is a system using so-called Radio-Frequency identification, or RFID tags, which will eventually replace the barcode commonly used today. Their advantage is that they store more information on minimal space and are quickly read by readers. RFID tags are well-placed everywhere where goods are registered, monitored or transported automatically. The new tags allow automatic store checkout, simplify warehousing, and can even prevent theft. If the current trend continues, the recycling industry will face enormous challenges in the coming years, as demonstrated by a study done on behalf of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). After melting waste glass, for instance, it could become less shatterproof or discoloured if the recycled glass contains trace amounts of aluminium and silicon from RFID tags. In any event, RFID tags must become more ecological. Tags that are metal-free, more easily removable, or affixed to bottle labels instead of the glass would be better.