Photo credit: Digimarc

Marking for Recycling

Digimarc at center of pan-european development of digital watermarking for improved plastic sortation and recycling

Beaverton, Ore., United States

Digimarc Corporation announced today that the Digimarc Platform has been chosen as the principal technology of the cross-value chain initiative “HolyGrail 2.0” to improve sortation and higher-quality recycling rates for packaging in the European Union (EU). The industry-led initiative is facilitated by AIM (Association des Industries de Marque), the European Brands Association, with its more than 2,500 member organizations.

Digimarc was the technology ultimately chosen at the conclusion of the highly publicized HolyGrail 1.0 initiative under the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy, which included 29 corporations and was led by Procter & Gamble. Now, under HolyGrail 2.0, the Leadership Team includes world-leading brands P&G, Nestle, PepsiCo and Danone. Over 85 cross-industry companies and organizations have signed to be active participants in the next stages of pilots and industrial-scale demonstrations towards commercialization.

“The launch of this critical cross-value chain initiative serves as validation that Digimarc is a vital piece of the puzzle to solve the world’s plastic waste problem. We look forward to the next stage of development working with consumer brands and retailers, equipment manufacturers and suppliers, and industry trade organizations to engage the full supply chain to advance the circular economy in the EU and beyond,” said Bruce Davis, Chairman and CEO of Digimarc.

“Based on our discoveries and success in the HolyGrail 1.0 initiative, Procter & Gamble is proud to launch the first commercial products that integrate Digimarc’s technology with a focus primarily on improved detection in waste facilities and to help us meet our sustainability goals,” said Gian De Belder, Technical Director, Packaging Sustainability, P&G. “We look forward to the further evolution of the technology as we continue to introduce a wider range of watermark-based packaging into the marketplace. It is great to see the potential that intelligent packaging brings, as well as the role that digital watermarking technology can play in the fields of innovation, sustainability and digital connectivity – all areas highlighted in the European Green Deal.”

Improving Plastic Sortation

Advancing recycling sorting with digital watermarks would be delivered to recycling facilities through existing sortation equipment manufacturers. Digimarc has delivered its advanced technology components to TOMRA Sorting Solutions and Pellenc ST, the world’s two leading sortation equipment manufacturers, with an estimated 80 percent global market share.

“Our work with Digimarc in the HolyGrail 1.0 demos and trials demonstrated the viability of the technology and the benefits this could mean to our customers. We look forward to continuing our work with Digimarc in HolyGrail 2.0 towards bringing to market the enormous potential of the technology for recycling sortation,” said Oliver Lambertz, Vice President and Head of Business Development, TOMRA.

“Pellenc ST is convinced that marker technology is an interesting opportunity to sort food packaging from non-food applications. Our cooperation with Digimarc to assess the potential of the technical solution in sorting plant conditions is a unique chance to accelerate the potential market penetration,” said Antoine Bourley, co-founder and R&D Manager, Pellenc. “We clearly see a potential solution to further improve plastic recycling quality.”

Supports Sustainability and Circular Economy Programs of Leading Brands and Retailers

Industry projections show a significant shortfall by 2025 of post-consumer recyclate needed by manufacturers to meet pubic pledges and increasingly-stringent government regulation. Improved sortation, such as the detection of food versus non-food prior use of the package, better ensures manufacturers will be able to meet such demand. A further benefit to the adoption of Digimarc is the potential for eco-modulation (reduction) of Extended Producer Responsibility fees paid by manufacturers for the costs they impose on society through their products in the marketplace and subsequent waste recovery.

“We are excited to integrate Digimarc Barcode in our product packaging hitting shelves soon in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Czech Republic and Finland. Sustainability is a key foundation element of Orkla and we are eager to offer packaging that can be more accurately identified and sorted to support the circular economy,” said Pavel Komůrka, Packaging Innovation – Sustainability Coordinator, Orkla Group Procurement, Orkla ASA.

Expanding Industry Service Provider Partners

Beyond consumer brands and equipment manufacturers, Digimarc is actively expanding the universe of Digimarc-trained suppliers to the industry, including mold makers, printers and packaging converters. Product manufacturers will be able to continue working with their existing suppliers, with minimal imposition to existing workflows.

“We are working closely with Digimarc to deliver the first enhanced thermoform plastic trays using the company’s latest advancements. The results are outstanding, regardless of the color of the plastic product or if the material is virgin or already from a recycling stream. Most impressive is the detection of food versus non-food prior use of the material, a game-changer in terms of impact to the recycling industry,” said Nicolas Lorenz, Chief Commercial Officer, PACCOR, a leading European packaging producer.

“We are pleased to provide Digimarc Barcode enhancements to our customers, allowing us to make their IML packaging intelligent by means of Interactive IML labels,” said Nico Van de Walle, Product & Circular Economy Manager, Verstraete IML (in-mould labeling). “Their focus today is mainly on sustainability, and Digimarc technology can help them contribute to the circular economy and meet their sustainability goals.”

“We are excited about the potential impact Digimarc could have on recycling. One of the greatest issues affecting recycling today is contamination. By incorporating Digimarc into product graphics, brand owners can potentially link consumers to information on package recyclability – giving consumers a better understanding of what they should place in a recycling bin,” said Robert Flores, Vice President, Sustainability, Berry Global, a Fortune 500 manufacturer of plastic packaging products.

Developing Programs in Recycling and Circular Economy

Digimarc is working in program development stages for two country-wide programs in Europe that will demonstrate enhancement of objects for recycling and detection, from consumer disposal on to monitoring the recycling waste chain and outputs in facilities. In addition, Digimarc is actively pursuing new methodologies for creating identities in plastic objects, such as through laser ablation, in which it is possible to serialize each individual package. Another effort is the participation of consumers for more significant collections of waste using their smartphones, in which scanning a package would inform them of the recyclability of that package based on the consumer’s curbside waste disposal service.

In addition to its work in AIM’s HolyGrail 2.0 initiative, Digimarc is a now Founding Activator of the U.S. Plastics Pact, a collaborative led by The Recycling Partnership and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), launched as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact network. The U.S. Plastics Pact is an ambitious initiative to unify diverse public-private stakeholders across the plastics value chain to rethink the way we design, use, and reuse plastics, to create a path toward a circular economy for plastic in the United States.

As a trusted advisor and leader in the auto-identification of objects for recycling, Digimarc has shared its expertise over the past year through its membership in such organizations as the Association for Plastics Recycling, Petcore Europe, Consumer Goods Forum, Consumer Brands Association, Sustainable Packaging Coalition, the European Plastics Pact, the U.S. Plastics Pact and the Active and Intelligent Packaging Industry Association.


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