Unseen environmental impacts of current product identification and tracking solutions
Veracity Protocol’s solution is software-based, and it’s 100% green.
Everyone knows that today’s world faces enormous environmental challenges. It’s becoming an urgent matter to approach the way we produce, distribute, and consume in a more sustainable way. With sustainability at the forefront, digital traceability can help companies deliver on their commitments. But it does not mean that traceability technologies used today should stand still.
This is true across most (if not all) industrial activities. Today, most current solutions used for product identification and tracking are environmentally unfriendly. The most commonly used technologies for these purposes are RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags, NFC chips, and labels or holograms. Beyond being expensive and invasive (i.e., additive to the product), these technologies use components that can directly harm the environment and their carbon footprint is far from neutral.
It’s time to reinvent product identification and traceability standards using a 100% software-based solution, powered by computer-vision and artificial intelligence and leveraging everything that industries and consumers already have in the palm of their hands … a smartphone camera.
As RFID technology becomes more common, there’s a high chance that a large fraction of consumer products, including food packaging, might someday have RFID tags. According to IDTechEx’s report, 28.4 billion passive RFID tags were sold in 2021, up from 23.8 billion in 2020.
Today’s RFID tags are neither biodegradable nor recyclable. RFID tags may get in the way of recycling many types of packaging and other materials. Because of the way they are embedded, it can complicate the recycling process for any product. Most of these tags will end up in municipal solid waste, or in the recycling streams for paper, cardboard, metal, glass, and plastic.
RFID tags create a significant amount of waste that does not help in the battle towards a more circular economy.
RFID tags usually contain antennas made of copper, aluminum, or silver compounds and a silicon integrated circuit with adhesives made of plastics and paper. Specific concerns have been raised about potential contamination associated with recycling glass, steel, aluminum, paper, and plastic together.
For example, silicon chips in RFID cause difficulties when attached to glass containers. The silicon melts at a different rate than glass, and if the silicon stays with the glass through the recycling chain and into the glass furnace, this can lead to silicon ‘balls’ in the new packaging. This forms a weak spot, mainly of concern for pressurized containers. This shows that at scale, RFID tags used on glass products need to be completely removable.
RFID tags are often attached to a PET substrate (e.g., soda and water bottles) or high-density polyethylene (used for milk jugs, detergent bottles, etc.). RFID tags need to be separated from HDPE bottles during the recycling process because RFID tags are denser than HDPE. However, separating RFID tags from PET bottles is quite a challenge. Both RFID tags and PET sink in water. Since RFID tags typically are made on a PET substrate, there may not be enough of a mass difference to separate PET from RFID tags using cyclonic separation.
In summary, RFID tags create a significant amount of unrecyclable waste that does not help in the battle towards a more circular economy.
NFC chips are made of polyethylene terephthalate (casing), aluminum or copper (antenna), an integrated circuit (silicon/gold), and adhesive. There are two main issues that arise out of NFC chip production. The first is the environmental impact of polyethylene terephthalate casing, which is the largest part of the chip. The second is the shortage of microchips due to difficulty sourcing materials such as silicon.
The biggest environmental issue with NFC chips is the PET component. PET is a common plastic used in many consumer goods. Although it is recyclable, when used in NFC, it is difficult to remove the plastic for recycling and can jam processing filters.
The metal components of NFC antennas are also difficult to remove and recycle. A recent study by the RAND Corporation estimates that roughly 70% of RFID/NFC chips end up in landfill waste treatment centers. According to the same study, the total CO2 inventory of the RFID tags used in the EU-27 is estimated to rise from 980 Mg/a to 302,500 Mg/a.
One of the environmental issues with NFC chips is the PET component. When used in NFC, it is difficult to remove the plastic for recycling and can jam processing filters.
Silicon is also used in many NFC chips. There is a current shortage of silicon, with prices elevating by over 300%, and it may translate to higher costs for NFC, expected to carry on to 2022. Price increase statements of various manufacturers report price increases of around 20–30% on average. Lag time in the sourcing, manufacturing, and delivery process have roughly doubled, causing major delays in implementation.
It’s time for a greener and safer solution that will not pollute our environment
Many tell you they can build a “greener” or “more sustainable” NFC chip or RFID tag, using more sustainable components (e.g., wood, paper, etc.). But these are only a patch and not a long-term sustainable approach in light of the exponential demand for item identification and traceability. A complete disruption is needed.
A non-invasive and non-additive item traceability solution is required. Today’s modern technologies can help solve these issues and lead to a safer, greener, and more sustainable world for all. Digital traceability technology gives us an opportunity to create more intelligent supply chains capable of tracking, tracing, and authenticating everything from tea leaves to medication.
In addition to optimizing available resources, facilitating the reuse of materials, authenticating products, and ensuring fair and sustainable trade, traceability allows companies to take control of their products’ carbon footprints. End-to-end traceability is the key to product life-cycle analysis, which leads to understanding and adjusting the environmental and social impact of any product.
Digital traceability is the driver of a greener, safer, more efficient, and entirely connected global supply chain — an intelligent supply chain. It’s the key to a more sustainable world.
For every industry, every product, at every level, digital traceability is the driver of a smarter, greener, more efficient, and connected global supply chain. It is the key to a more sustainable world.
New technologies, such as AI, the Internet of Things, and blockchain, can take traceability systems to another level, offering detailed reports on any product’s status and movements and creating direct links between the various stakeholders along the supply chain, from producers to end users.
Veracity Protocol’s solution needs only energy, and it’s totally green
Using artificial intelligence, we create an immutable digital twin to any physical product. Companies can now rely solely on a product’s unique material structure — something like a human fingerprint — which we call its Physical Codeᵀᴹ. This is done by simply taking a picture of the product with a standard industrial or smartphone camera during the manufacturing process. Protection is instant. Then, the product is immutably linked to its digital passport that can be integrated in supply chain systems or blockchain.
Anyone in the supply chain can complete a verification at any time. Veracity Protocol’s algorithm analyzes the item’s unique material characteristics, and the verification results are highly accurate. Any consumer with a smartphone camera can know if the product is genuine or faked.
Our technology makes any supply chain transparent, safe, efficient, sustainable, and the world greener.
Veracity Protocol’s technology doesn’t need special hardware and unlike embedded tags, chips, or markers is 100% friendly to the environment and totally green. Unlike RFID technology, the Physical Codeᵀᴹ is impossible to reverse-engineer, tamper with, or duplicate. Veracity Protocol can be seamlessly integrated within the manufacturing process and is also cost-efficient at scale at a fraction of the price of RFID tags. Thanks to our technology, you can make your supply chain transparent, safe, efficient, sustainable, and the world greener.
Let’s make a safer, greener world together! We are always here to discuss this, so don’t hesitate to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Veracity Protocol is an award-winning startup that builds a Vision AI Standard to protect people and products in the digital world. The standard guarantees the highest level of trust and security for verifying the identity, authenticity, and integrity of physical objects using a smartphone.