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Barcode v/s Plastic Waste: we can have Zero Waste Supermarkets worldwide

We didn’t need so much plastic before supermarkets era, but we can easily monitor and account all plastic sold by supermarkets per gram

Photo of Clara Salina
17 12

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The Zero Waste Supermarket formula is an opportunity to get products to people without generating plastic waste, but majority of products are distributed by standard supermarkets with their unstoppable diffusion in any nation of the world.
Since the '60, huge quantities of plastic got out from their shops.

We have reached a point in which the measures implemented by the current recycling model, which are focused on producer responsibility and final consumer awareness are clearly not enough to prevent the continued accumulation of plastic waste in the oceans.

Barcode v/s Plastic Waste” continues forward in the argument, focusing and controlling that crucial and almost forgotten player in the current model of consumption: retail or supermarkets.
Consumers must continue recycling, but reality shows clear that the potential to decrease plastic waste could not lay on upon only consumer awareness.

Supermarkets do hold responsibility for ENCOURAGING THE USE of plastic and packaging, as they radically changed our model of consumption. But through them we also have the potential to drastically reduce plastic quantities in daily use or eliminate it all together.

Following “Barcode v/s Plastic Waste”, Governments should request supermarkets to be responsible for all plastic re-collection associated with products they sell, while Public Administration would maintain the duty of control of its actual recycling.

The barcode which identifies any item sold, offers the possibility to monitor and account weight and material composition of all plastics, containers or packaging, by simply adding these information into the barcode.

Having the package information (i.e. PET2/45gr. – PET5/75gr. – etc.) inside the same barcode already used on any item sold will offer an extremely easy way to obtain the necessary data to apply follow-up control over its re-collection.

We would be able to monitor the recyclable materials per gram through the entire transaction system in real-time, allowing us to review any cash register day by day.

For example, at the end of the day of a given supermarket we will know that from cash #1 got out: 800gr/PET1, 700gr/PET2, 550gr/PET3 and so on, along with the money collected.

It is important to highlight, the requested plastic re-collection criterion will be weight and material and won’t refer to “that” specific packaging, bottle or jar sold by a specified supermarket.

Therefore, along with the necessary law, just a new software (or adjustment of the existing one) and a new logistic inside supermarkets will be enough to produce the change.

“Barcode v/s Plastic Waste” would transform millions of negative actions into positive, preventing the loss of tons of raw material with a final reduction of petrol demand too.

This new recycling process could reach the full capacity in three years, requesting 30% of plastic collection quantity the first year, 60% the second 90-100% the third.

We will be forcing “a few” to influence millions.

What might happen?

In the path of assumptions, it is very likely that, in the typical private market’s problem solving spirit, immediate solutions would be sought to face the task that has been imposed by law, such as:

1) a huge process of professional training for the company’s internal staff will be needed, with the immediate result of raising awareness amongst the thousands of workers of the given companies;

2) probably implementation of “face to face” communicational campaigns at cash register, asking to consumers to bring the plastic back, with the suitable achievement of a rising awareness on plastic dangerousness;

3) the most important: it is likely possible that supermarket chains will push producers toward a switch from "disposable plastic" to "refillable containers" wherever possible, with the aim to reduce the impact of the law;

4) packaging simplification would be immediately required for an easier re-collection.

All this might probably happen within the very first year, while they must re-collect only 30%.

So, it is very likely that we would have a drastic plastic packaging reduction within only one year from the day the law would take force.

“Barcode v/s Plastic Waste” offers an efficient, win-win-win model: a sustainable and dynamic circle, a cradle to cradle controlled process for this uncontrolled and currently destructive material.

With “Barcode v/s Plastic Waste” we would be able to transform in Zero Waste every supermarket on Earth. 

Supermarket cash registers are the last control in the commercial process. After that, only individual awareness and the environment are remaining.

It is especially needed in developing countries and wherever the EPR law’s infrastructure hasn't be implemented but where supermarkets are not absent and, let's say also, the barcode innovation can be used to monitor, track and account -if necessary- any other "future" waste.

The main purpose of this proposal is not to be an alternative to the existing EPR law, but improve its impact through collaboration.

The whole EPR system structure is perfectly suited for minority trade.

Nevertheless, for their stockroom dimension, higher financial capacity, and increase in waste volume responsibility, they are certainly the Supermarket Chains who should be taking action for the waste it contributes.

Finally: why am I applying to this challenge?

Our oceans need strict laws. “Barcode v/s Plastic Waste” offers a strict control but it needs experts and stakeholders to spread and promote this ideas among decision makers: politicians.

Since the day I had the idea, I did my best to get in contact with any possible person who could have the chance to help the idea to become reality. 

The good news is that I have started to gain political attention: 

José Luis Samaniego, Director of Division for Sustainable Development and Human Settlements - ECLAC/CEPAL - United Nations wrote a letter supporting my proposal.

Daniel Jadue, Mayor of a Chilean City named Recoleta, started considering “Barcode v/s Plastic Waste” within his politic. The City is working on the creation of a pilot plan, giving me a change to improve my effort.

Both letters are in attachment.

If I win

I started working on “Barcode v/s Plastic Waste” idea by the end of 2013, publishing the very first article on February 2014. 

On May 2014, I opened the page where I published the proposal in its 5 versions, which has been visited more than 4200 times from around 100 countries. (statistic in attachment)

My Twitter account @clara_salina has around 2000 followers almost all related with environment or nature.
I have never stopped promoting the idea and I won’t do it in the future.

Win this award would give me the possibility to make it better and go farer.

Last but not least, if I win I want to share the possibility to participate in the educational seminars part of the Accelerator Phase with a representer from Recoleta Municipality chosen by the Mayor.

How does this research relate to our Use Cases?

Barcode v/s Plastic Waste is related with all Use Cases because it potentially eliminates all non recyclable plastic packaging, meanwhile fostering their simplification where they can't be replaced.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Can we really solve the ocean’s problems without strict laws? Do we have enough time to wait for people reaching necessary awareness? How much of the plastic packaging pieces floating in our oceans have not passed from a cash register? Which alternative do we have when consumers don’t recycle? Clean up oceans is almost useless if we don't stop polluting exposing the pollution sources.

Tell us about yourself

I'm Italian, moved to Chile on 2006. Recycling belonged to my daily life, but not the same in Chile where it was almost an empty concept. I tried hard to promote awareness within neighbors or friends. Failing all attempts, I realized education is not enough and plastic production will always prevail
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Attachments (5)

clara salina letter.pdf

Support letter from José Luis Samaniego, Division for Sustainable Development and Human Settlements' Director - ECLAC/CEPAL - United Nations

Carta de Apoyo Clara Salina.pdf

Support letter from Daniel Jadue, Recoleta's Mayor, Chile

Barcode vs Plastic Waste Awarded.JPG

Barcode v/s Plastic Waste awarded by Let's Recycle UK on 2016 - Analytics - all statistics downloaded.png

Document from showing the rising number of visits since the very beginning. Profile is not online anymore, platform seems have been closed - Analytics Export - 1934434-1494275794.pdf - Barcode v/s Plastic Waste's page visits since May 21, 2014 - All visits. Profile is not online anymore, platform seems have been closed


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Clara,

It is great to see you in the challenge and to see all the passion and focus you have put into your idea.

The ideas phase is open and to be considered for the challenge, please would you repost your idea here -

You simply need to resubmit and cut and paste the information here. If you have any questions, this is my email -

Photo of Clara Salina

Hi Kate,
thanks for your words. I'm working and spreading this idea since so much time. I truly believe in it.
I need you to clarify a further point. When you say cut, you mean I must delete this one?
What does it happen with the applauses I got?

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Clara,

I hope everything was clear in my email.

Also, are you on LinkedIn? We have a Circular Design Guide Group -

This group is about design & the circular economy. It's run jointly by IDEO and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. It currently has over 6 thousand members.

Photo of Clara Salina

Hi Kate
Yes it is all clear, I'm working on it, I have already started a draft.
I'll join the LinkedIn group as well.

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