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08 September 2022

Traceability systems for bags: which is the best?

Bag tracking systems for smart waste management

A proper waste traceability system, from collection from households to disposal, is essential to optimise and simplify waste collection processes and to obtain exact and precise data for smart waste management. Thanks to traceability systems, in fact, it is possible to control and manage the entire collection and disposal process simply and quickly: from the delivery to individual users to the identification of the bags at the time of collection, up to the transmission and verification of the data by the municipality or the body managing the service to ensure fair pricing for each user.

There are two main tracking systems applicable to polyethylene bags for waste separation: the RFID tag or the printing of a barcode or QR code.

But how do these tracking systems work specifically? And which are the most suitable depending on the type of application? Let's find out together!

What are tracking systems?

In general, by "traceability system" we mean a system that makes it possible to identify and trace all the information and components involved in a production process, from the initial stages to the subsequent processing, transformation and marketing of a product. Traceability systems thus make it possibile to monitor every stage of the production of a good or service, from the collection of raw materials to the delivery of the finished product to the customer. Not only that: traceability systems also make it possible to collect valuable data for analysing and improving production processes and, in the case of waste bags, can bu useful for improving collection and disposal systems.


Traceability can be provided by a barcode or QR code applied directly to products or by other technologies, such as RFID tag tracking. Let's tale a closer look at what they consist of and how they work.

How RFID technology works

RFID technology (an acronym for Radio Frequency Identification) is one of the most widely used systems for traceability and smart waste management. Thanks to this technology, in fact, it is possible to store data on tags, called tags or transponders, which can be read or written by specific radio frequency readers. All information useful to the user can be stored in the tags and, thanks to the use of special antennas that are able to transmit the signal, the read/write system can also operate remotely.

In the waste collection system using RFID tags and RFID readers, in particular, a small chip is place on the rubbish bags to uniquely identify each user:

  • At the time of delivery, the bags are associated with the user using the service;
  • During collection, the RFID tag is identified and read by a special reading system;
  • Using special software, it is possible to automatically manage all stages of data verification, association and processing.

Why choose waste bags with RFID tags?

The use of RFID technology offers numerous advantages for the waste collection system because the tag, applied directly on the bags, ensures automatic reading, speeding up and simplifying the detection and control processes of the operators and thus enabling an accurate and punctual pricing system based on the actual number of collections (especially for non-recyclable waste such as residual dry waste).

In addition to speeding up and improving waste collection processes by operators, the use of RFID-tagged bags can also be useful in raising awareness among citizens for more careful and conscious waste sorting. Indeed, an accurate calculation of the waste tax can be an incentive for greater sorting and a significant reduction in the amount of materials disposed of, thus achieving cost savings. In addition to this, there is also an economic benefit fro the waste collection authorities, as the use of RFID technology and the simplification of collection processes reduce personnel costs.

Barcodes and QR Codes: what they are and how to read them

The Barcode is one of the most widespread and widely used traceability and identification systems. Formed by an alternating sequence of bars of different thickness, it is mainly used in large-scale retail trade to identify finished products, which will then be purchased by consumers. The bars encode thirteen digits that specify various characteristics of the products, such as the nationality of the producer, product type, brand and price. The code is read by special scanner readers and must be intact and clearly visible for the reading process to be successful.

The QR Code, on the other hand, is a two-dimensional, square-shaped barcode, consisting of several black modules on a white background, mainly used for storing information and data. A single code can contain thousands of numeric and alphanumeric characters.

Its name, which is derived from the English term "Quick Response Code", emphasises the extreme speed with which the code is able to deliver information, which can be decoded through mobile devices.

To read a QR code, simply scan the code with a smartphone, tablet or special reader and you are immediately redirected to the desired information (e.g. product information). Compared to barcodes, QR codes can store more data: a code can contain up to 7,089 numeric and 4,296 alphanumeric characters. Compared to one-dimensional codes, moreover, the QR Code can be read even if it is faded or scratched.

Barcodes and QR Codes for waste bags: features and benefits

Thanks to their ability to store large amounts of data, barcodes and QR codes can offer several advantages and enable faster and more punctual management of waste collection systems. In fact, barcode and QR Code systems are very useful for the traceability of bags or their contents, as they provide the same system as RFID tags, but at a lower cost.

In contrast to RFID technology, however, they require manual detection by an operator, which leads to higher operational costs and longer control and collection times.

The application of barcode/QR code printing directly on the bags makes them 100% recyclable: QR code traceable bags can then be used for the separate collection of plastic.

The use of QR Codes makes it possible to trace not only bags intended for waste collection but any packaging, such as reel filmHDPE/LDPE pouches and bags suitable for food contact. In fact, in addition to the waste collection sector, this traceability system can offer several advantages to companies to track batches of products and better control their development in production processes.

Plastisac has developed innovative solutions for the traceability of polyethylene bags and packaging by means of RFID, Barcode or QR Code tags. If you need more information on the proposed traceability systems, contact us! Our staff is at your complete disposal to advise you on the best and most suitable solutions for your needs.

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