Can RFID Tags Become An Environmental Problem?

As RFID tags enter recycling mills as part of old corrugated containers, the question arises as to tags environmental impact. The Fibre Box Association (FBA), a Rolling Meadows, IL. -based trade association, conducted a study on the effect of copper foil and conductive silver ink in recycling operations. The concern was whether metals were present in wastewater, solid residuals or in the product at concentrations that approach or exceed regulatory limits.

FBA,in conjunction with the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, studied two types of passive RFIDs -- a poly-laminated copper foil antenna and an un-laminated printed silver antenna -- by processing them through a pilot recycling and paper-making facility at Western Michigan University.

The results of the study were:

  • Laminated copper foil antennas do not readily break down and are removed early in the pulping process as a non-recyclable solid waste.
  • Silver ink from printed, non-laminated labels tends to remain with the paper substrate and is not easily extractable from the finished paper.
  • Silver in effluent, solid waste and product streams are below the identified regulatory thresholds.

For a copy of the complete study, contact Brian O'Banion, FBA vice president, at [email protected].

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