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Blockchain for plastics recycling


BASF has launched a blockchain pilot project in British Columbia to help increase the circularity of the plastics lifecycle.

Called reciChain, the project combines blockchain with a digital badge and loop count technology that enables the secured sharing of data among market participants, while improving the sorting, tracing and monitoring of plastics throughout the value chain.

The result is intended to be a more competitive circular supply chain rather than a linear one, extending the lifecycle of plastics. Additionally, due to the increased transparency reciChain brings, the platform can provide better assurance to brand owners of the validity of the certificates they purchase from recyclers and converters.

According to a report produced by Deloitte for Environment and Climate Change Canada, the country disposed of nearly 3.3 million tons of plastic waste in 2016. Of these plastics, less than 11 percent was recycled, meaning the rest was landfilled or lost into the environment. If the present trend continues, the report estimates that Canadians will dispose of $11.1 billion worth of plastic materials each year by 2030.

“There is a clear global challenge around the economics of recycling plastic,” said Marcelo Lu, president of BASF Canada.

“Much of the collection and sorting activities are challenged by manual processes and material contamination. Additionally, traceability is a concern as new commitments start to emerge from brand owners and retailers. With reciChain, our goal is to revitalize the value of plastics and significantly improve circularity in the supply chain.”

Initially piloted by BASF in Brazil, the inspiration for reciChain came from a need in that market to deal with social inequality issues as well as regulatory concerns around recycling certificates. Given its ability to tokenize the recycling value of plastics, the platform enables a fairer distribution of value added along the supply chain, even to cooperatives, which traditionally generate lower returns compared to other businesses.

As well, better visibility into material flow through the platform provides better compliance with recycling documentation. The project has secured participation of some major Brazilian players and will continue to be developed in parallel with the Canadian pilot.

“A successful implementation of reciChain will result in a collaborative digital consortium that will bring together plastic manufacturers, suppliers, government entities, retailers, waste collectors and recyclers aimed at keeping the life of plastic molecules circular,” said Anthony DiPrinzio, head of the BASF Blockchain Lab.

Deloitte is a strategic advisor on the pilot project in B.C.