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Blogs - January 23, 2023

Digital Product Passport

Emma Kastrisianaki-Guyton - Senior Circular Economy Consultant

The end of 2022 saw the 27th annual UN global climate summit, COP27. The conference highlighted the urgent need to move from planning and negotiation to implementation of sustainability solutions at scale. The circular economy is considered to be one of the key enablers of sustainability, and digital technologies will be a critical implementation tool to get us there. Another major driver comes from consumers themselves. Consumers are increasingly aware of the importance of making sustainable purchasing decisions, so are demanding a higher level of transparency from companies.

This post explores some of the possibilities of digital product passports in overcoming these challenges, and how Pragmatic’s technology can help to close the loop and move us to a large-scale circular economy.

Why do we need digital solutions for circularity?

The circular economy is a framework designed to help society transition to sustainable consumption models, in line with the UN sustainable development goals. The fundamental goal of a circular economy is to ensure materials are kept in circulation for as long as possible. However, a major challenge in the transition to a circular model is the lack of information transfer between stakeholders across the value chain. New digital methods can be harnessed to make circularity a viable model for the future.

What is a Digital Product Passport?

A Digital Product Passport (DPP) is a way of gathering and storing data on a product and its supply chain, with the ultimate goal of increasing a product’s sustainability and circularity.

The data contained on a DPP are made accessible across the entire value chain, from manufacturer through to consumer. Data to be captured include details of every step in the value chain, providing full traceability of a product, how it was made and by whom. There is also potential for a DPP to become a living document, which could be updated at different subsequent stages of a product’s life, for example if a product is resold, repaired or at end-of-life. 

In the European Union, the introduction of DPPs is a key requirement of the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (published in March 2022), a piece of legislation designed to ensure a more circular future for consumer products. 

Which sectors will DPPs be applicable to?

In the EU, DPPs will initially be applied to three categories: batteries (in particular industrial and electric vehicle batteries), electronics and textiles. These have been chosen as priority areas due to their current low levels of circularity. These sectors are being used to generate a prototype for how DPPs can work, and these findings will then be used in the application of the technology across consumer product categories.

When will DPP be put into practise?

Although the framework for the introduction of product passports was published in 2022, the use of DPP at large scale will likely not be seen for several years. The European Commission must first understand how this technology can be applied at scale – what data is required, who needs access to it, how will it be stored, how will it be updated, etc. In the short-term, we will likely see pilot projects conducted to understand the challenges of applying DPP in practise. Despite this, many businesses are already considering how the legislation might affect them, and are taking proactive steps in implementing greater traceability in their supply chains.

Pragmatic’s technology enables circularity

Pragmatic has developed a unique technology platform for ultra-low-cost flexible integrated circuits (electronic chips). This technology can unlock applications that would have previously been beyond the scope of conventional electronics. One of our key focuses is enabling circular economy applications across sectors, using our flagship RFID and NFC products. Our tags enable traceability through the supply chain whilst also allowing a consumer to interact with individual items. We have extensive experience in the application of our technology to enable reusable packaging, improve recycling and reduce waste.

Ultra-low-cost electronics will have a key role to play in DPP

The introduction of DPPs at scale will require significant changes throughout the entire supply chain, across capturing, storing and accessing data. Pragmatic’s technology can be added to items or components to provide low-cost and physically flexible digital connectivity with item-level identification. The inclusion of our technology also allows a high level of automation when tracing elements through a supply chain, as items can be read without the clear line-of-sight typically required of alternative tracking technologies. When we think of the vast scale of change that must be tackled in providing traceable global supply chains, it is clear that this type of scalable, automated system will be a crucial part of the future. 

UN SDG Stages

The UN Sustainable Development Goals are a universal call to action to transform the way we interact with each other and the world around us. The development of sustainable value chains will be critical in helping to meet several of these goals.

DPP Stages

Pragmatic tags can be used to track items and materials at every stage, from manufacturing through to consumer use and beyond.

Find out more on Circular Economy
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