How to label plastic waste: An introduction to blockchain

GreenToken by SAP‘s role within INCREACE is to provide a cloud software system that conclusively proves that new plastic material is circular and not from virgin raw sources. GreenToken by SAP developed a virtual token that can track where plastic waste comes from on their blockchain. James Veale from Greentoken by SAP gives us a brief insight into blockchain and explains how it can impact the plastic recycling industry.

Can you give us a short introduction to blockchain?

‘Traditional ways of recording supply chain traceability is centralised – with one main actor/party keeping all the data records. This means that everyone must update this central record keeper, and the central record keeper is a single point of weakness – it has complete control over what gets recorded and it can make changes without anyone noticing.

Blockchain is a new way of recording transactions, very suited to supply chain traceability.

  • Blockchain is decentralized, which means you don’t need that central record keeper.
  • Blockchain is distributed – we all have a copy of the records and we all agree by consensus if an update is correct or not.
  • The blockchain ledger is auditable – all of the supply chain transactions are linked.
  • Some versions of blockchain use a lot of energy, GreenToken’s version uses no more energy than other online cloud services.

If you look at all these advantages, you can see that blockchain is ideally suited for long and complex supply chains where auditable proof is needed throughout the chain to prove interesting facts, like that this material really came from a recycled feedstock.’

What is the role of GreenToken by SAP in the INCREACE project?’

‘The problem with plastic waste is that you can’t label every individual piece with a bar code or QR code – like you would with a shampoo bottle or soda can. Therefore, it’s very hard to figure out where the plastic waste came from and how it is being recycled. GreenToken solved this problem by making a digital twin virtual token (the GreenToken) that has lots of interesting information about the plastic waste (where was it collected, what kind of plastic is it, which company is responsible). We do this at the micro level – each token represent 1g of waste material.

Wherever the waste goes or however it gets recycled, we update all the tokens that represent the material. For example, if I recycled 1kg of material to a new material, then I update the 1000 unique tokens representing that material on the GreenToken blockchain. At the end of process, we have newly recycled circular material and a chain of custody record on our blockchain of where it came from, how it was recycled, who was involved and other interesting facts such as its overall carbon footprint. In this way, we gain complete transparency into the recycling process of any plastic waste and we allow a company or a brand to make verifiable claims about their recycling commitment.’

Would like to know more about our partner GreenToken by SAP? Read our Meet the Partner interview with James Veale.

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