Electronic Tags for Product Lifecycle Management

EPA Grant Number: R829585
Title: Electronic Tags for Product Lifecycle Management
Investigators: Thomas, Valerie , Wagner, Sigurd
Institution: Princeton University
EPA Project Officer: Karn, Barbara
Project Period: January 1, 2002 through December 31, 2004 (Extended to December 31, 2005)
Project Amount: $240,000
RFA: Technology for a Sustainable Environment (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Sustainability , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development


Electronic tags have great potential for management of product recycling and reuse, and for research on product lifecycles. As a lifecycle management tool, electronic tags could make recycling easier and cheaper, and could facilitate the recovery of economic value from the waste stream. As a research tool, electronic tags have the potential to provide detailed data on product distribution, consumption, use, disposal and recycling. Very low-cost electronic tags will become available as one of the results of current research on flexible and printable electronics. Our objective is to test, demonstrate and develop the potential application of electronic tags for product lifecycle management.


We will investigate the following issues using present-day, first-generation electronic tags: (1) Tag/product compatibility. For lifecycle management, tags must be on the product, not the package, and stay on the product throughout its life. Issues include product size, shape, composition, and function. (2) Electronic, internet-compatible monitoring of recycling. This will be assessed with a short-range system (~ 0.1 m) and simple products, at short time scales, followed by assessments for longer-lived products. (3) Physical ranges of tags and readers in complex environments typical of waste management scenarios. The key issues are range and interference from other products. This work will be carried out with passive tags (range 1 in). (4) Field tests at a waste management facility. This work will emphasize operational issues, and will minimize tag technology issues by use of higher-cost active tags at longer ranges (> 1 in).

Expected Results:

This research will provide a foundation for the widespread application of electronic product tags to product lifecycle management. Specifically, the research will test the limits of current tag technologies in laboratory and field applications, will develop techniques for use of product tags as an environmental research tool, and will clarify the key technical and policy issues for environmental policy applications.

Estimated Improvement:

The overall goal is to develop, assess, and demonstrate the environmental applications of electronic tags to the point that their potential is understood and industries can continue the development on a larger scale. Potential applications include end-of-life management for products containing lead, cadmium, mercury, and other hazardous materials, as well as end-of-life management of hazardous chemicals used by households, institutions, businesses and industry, including solvents, pesticides, oil-based paints, rust removers, etc. Electronic tags could reduce costs for existing end-of-life management systems, and could make it economically feasible to develop new ones. Electronic product tags could broaden the range of options for waste management ? both making producer responsibility approaches less expensive, and making market-based or regulatory approaches more feasible.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 13 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 3 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

innovative technology, engineering, pollution prevention,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, Sustainable Environment, Environmental Chemistry, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Economics, Environmental Engineering, life cycle analysis, cleaner production, waste minimization, waste reduction, environmentally conscious manufacturing, clean technologies, green design, life cycle inventory, environmental sustainability, clean manufacturing, life cycle assessment, product life cycle, electronic tags, industrial innovations, pollution prevention, environmental cost analysis

Progress and Final Reports:

2003 Progress Report
2004 Progress Report
Final Report