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Today’s green initiatives of Re-use, Repurpose, Recycle were introduced in the first Earth Day fifty-one years ago. Since then, the concept of sustainability has become part of business decisions large and small, ranging from break room beverage containers to energy sources for operations. Today we’ve become better at finding sustainable solutions, but there’s still room for tomorrow’s improvement.

One way to boost sustainability is with RFID. At the core of RFID is its ability to identify items and track their point-to-point movements. Moreover, that identity and movement data is available in real time, and it’s highly reliable.

Here are two RFID-assisted sustainability solutions, one for today, and one for tomorrow:

  • Today – In 2019, researchers learned U.S. hospitals were throwing away as much as $5 billion in outdated medical supplies. No hospital wanted to run out of anything critical, but unreliable manual inventories were leading to over-ordering and waste. Today, many hospital suppliers are now adding RFID tags to their perishable products. Doorway RFID readers update the hospital’s inventory when a fresh shipment arrives from the manufacturer. As items leave the storeroom or pharmacy, the inventory is immediately updated. Timely re-orders mean there are never shortages, and there is no waste of expired supplies. Excess inventory and excess storage space become things of the past.
    • If your business manufactures, packages, or uses perishable inventory, RFID will help you reduce waste and expense. Good for the earth, good for your bottom line.
  • Tomorrow – A report from Science Advances shows that only 9% of plastics worldwide are recycled currently. Even when consumers are motivated to recycle plastic packaging, they are confused about the types of plastics that can and can’t be recycled. A new generation of RFID tags currently under development will be flexible, sturdy, and low-cost enough to be incorporated into plastic packaging of consumer goods. A phone app will let consumers scan the plastic packaging to identify its recycling status. Taken a step further, consumers can be rewarded for recycling and deposit-and-return schemes. And municipal facilities can scan the RFID tags to further sort and recycle plastics that would otherwise be destined for landfills.
    • If your business needs to sort, re-use, or differentiate your disposables, RFID makes it faster, easier, and more accurate. Labor and material costs are reduced. Again, good for the earth, good for your bottom line.

The circular economy is a vital goal that will require innovative thinking at every step. Imaginative uses of mature, proven technology like RFID are a big part of achieving that goal.


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