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SMART TRASH: Study on RFID tags and the recycling industry

Rebecca Schindler
Nico Schmalbein
Vasco Steltenkamp
Jonathan Cave
Bastian Wens
Arne Anhalt
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 275
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The study aims to assess the environmental impact of the RFID tags themselves as well as the environmental advantages that the use of RFID can provide to product lifecycle management. The Final Report presents the findings of our research.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-7957-2
    Subjects: Technology, Environmental Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. Table of Figures
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Table of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  7. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xix-xx)
  8. Executive Summary
    (pp. 21-25)

    RFID technology is linked to recycling in two complementary ways. As objects, tags contain a variety of materials whose recycling is desirable on environmental grounds. These materials vary with the type of tag and their significance will increase as tags become more pervasive. Also, tags can themselves contribute to the efficiency and effectiveness of recycling at various stages in the lifecycles of a wide range of products, ranging from simple items to complex objects containing a variety of materials.

    The risks arising from the first element (e.g. potential contamination of waste streams) and the opportunities from the second have been...

  9. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 26-30)

    This report showed that waste processing facilities are not designed to separate RFID chips (except possibly in dedicated streams, such as waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)), and that the design of recyclable items is not oriented to through-life optimisation, as often little attention is paid to the end-of-life (EOL) phase of a product. Product design is still driven by commercial considerations, including the imputed cost of compliance with environmental and other regulations. If design ignores EOL, it is because the designer does not bear those costs or cannot capture its benefits and/or the regulations already in existence are not...

  10. SMART TRASH:: Part A

    • CHAPTER 2 A technical primer on RFID: tags, compositions, recyclability and forecasts
      (pp. 33-58)

      RFID was first used during World War II to identify friendly aircraft. Yet, it was not until 1973 that the first patent for an RFID tag was issued. RFID started to reach the masses only from the 1990s, especially with the development and commercialisation of the automated toll payment systems, and later with other uses of RFID such as tracking livestock, vehicles and containers. At the turn of the 21st century, two professors at the Auto-ID Center at MIT carried out research that changed the market significantly by turning RFID into a networking technology by linking objects to the Internet...

    • CHAPTER 3 The background context for assessing the impacts of RFID technology
      (pp. 59-74)

      This Chapter establishes the background necessary for assessing the impact of RFID as inert objects on the waste management industry and recycling. This background is important because if RFID tags are attached to objects, the tags will find their way into waste collection, treatment and disposal systems after these objects are discarded as waste. It is therefore imperative that we introduce the relevant EU legislative framework, both holistic EU waste framework legislation as well as legislation specific to certain wastes, and give an overview of waste management.

      Considering that most aspects of waste management are regulated through a set of...

    • CHAPTER 4 RFID tags in the waste processing industry
      (pp. 75-114)

      It is important to state that the impacts of RFID tags on waste streams cannot be generalised. This is because it is necessary to distinguish whether RFID tags contribute to an existing range of materials in a waste stream (which is true for mixed waste streams) or whether they contribute to a specific increase of special/unwanted components (which may be the case for most single material streams). Untangling this requires a distinction between the different waste streams themselves, as well as their ultimate purpose. One way of making this distinction is the utilisation of the EU waste codes. Another way...

    • CHAPTER 5 Conclusions on the impacts on waste treatment technologies and implications for national waste systems
      (pp. 115-134)

      Chapter 5 summarises the findings from a combination of the clustering of Member States into different levels of compliance with EU waste management targets, and the technical considerations of possible impacts of RFID tags in different waste treatment paths, particularly the EOL phases not considered under the Waste Framework Directive. The overall findings from the German study (Erdmann et al., 2009) are generally verified by this approach. The important difference between this study and the German one is that the scope has been broadened to EU level and considers differences in waste management in the different Member States.

      RFID tags...

  11. SMART TRASH:: Part B

    • CHAPTER 6 Assessment of current and potential use of RFID as a green technology in recycling
      (pp. 137-148)

      RFID can attach a material object to a stream of data. This can be done either by a unique identifier, linking the object to data that is stored in back-end systems or by reading and writing essential data directly to and from the tag. Connecting object and data has direct benefits. Therefore RFID is becoming more important in the field of product manufacturing, forward logistics and retail.

      There are many procedures in which RFID tag data can be used – manufacturing lines, recall management, asset tracking and inventory management, assignment of responsibilities, etc. However, this use of data is usually...

    • CHAPTER 7 RFID as a green technology: use case analysis
      (pp. 149-186)

      According to the EWL (European Waste List 2008) “municipal wastes including separately collected fractions” can be household waste and similar commercial, industrial and institutional wastes (Environmental Protection Agency (Ireland), 2002). Due to already existing schemes for the latter three, this use case will only address private households (denoted as “PAYT users”). PAYT users’ waste collection service is charged for according to actual waste generation measured by weight or volume.

      Two scenarios are possible in the PAYT use case: waste that is disposed of can either be linked to a waste bin or to a certain waste producer. The latter describes...

    • CHAPTER 8 Case studies of RFID as a green technology
      (pp. 187-214)

      The process to select use cases for a more specific analysis within a case study assessment was driven by several considerations of comparable relevance. The most promising use cases were chosen according to their relevance to the tension between the interests of industrial, societal and environmental sustainability. The case studies chosen, the first on WEEE and the second on CPDS, exemplify the importance of balancing and enforcing reaction loops throughout implementation and in-field management. Furthermore both case studies represent significantly different approaches and conditions within the tension field. Regulation played a major role in the RFID-enabled WEEE case study, whereas...

    • CHAPTER 9 Conclusions and the way forward
      (pp. 215-224)

      This report documents the analytic framework, research questions, policy context and technical and market analysis of RFID and its role in waste management. It also raises a number of specific issues requiring further investigation of the relationship between RFID and waste handling and potential market failures or other reasons for new or altered policy intervention.

      The project as a whole considered RFID tags from two perspectives: i) objects in waste streams; and ii) functional capabilities that can be harnessed to improve waste handling. A third perspective that emerges from the analysis is a holistic view of RFID as an enabling...



    • Annex I: Estimations for the modelling of waste streams in EU Member States
      (pp. 241-267)
    • Annex II Literature review and initial expert consultation
      (pp. 268-275)