Blockchain technology enables to register transactions forever on decentralised registers.
It makes it possible to track items along a complex supply chain from raw materials to finished products: before manufacturing, during manufacturing, during use and in the after-product-life.
Could it be a useful technology to reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in the environment, in landfills or incinerators because it is not properly collected and sorted out?
To understand what it could bring, BASF launched a pilot project with the support of Deloitte: the reciChain platform.
reciChain brings traceability and loop counting to plastics with a digital badge. Here, blockchain technology will bring the needed guarantee of data integrity. One use could be to reduce counterfeiting but it is not the main goal here.
Having a better tracking of what a plastic is and where it comes from will enable recyclers to better sort it. This will thereafter enable a better valorisation. For instance, it can help ensuring that food grade plastic can be identified and separated for the production of new food & beverage containers rather than blended with non-food grade plastic. Hence, a beverage plastic waste can be upcycled by producing again a similar category of products instead of a downcycling to a less sensitive application such as flooring. In the worst case, it is incinerated or landfilled.
One critical factor for this project is the creation of a consortium of stakeholders that work together on setting up the right processes, tools and share learnings. This cross-industry consortium approach is generally the key for the success of many innovation and circular economy initiatives.
Behind disruptive technologies and projects there are often innovative startups:
Circularise is a startup born from the mind of a student from Delft University of Technology. This university is well known for its circular economy educational programs. Circularise is supported by the EIT Raw Material innovation accelerator from the European Union.
Circularise focuses currently on solving two issues: supply chain integrity and documents compliance using blockchain technology in the plastic sector. They recently co-founded a plastic consortium with Covestro notably and received in 2019 the BASF circularity challenge award.
I assume that it could still take a number of years until a blockchain solution can really bring traceability at scale in the plastic supply chain but for sure it can be part of the ecosystem of solutions and initiatives that will make plastic and other industries more circular.