P&G Packaging expert Gian De Belder and Digimarc’c digital watermarking evangelist Larry Logan discuss how Project HolyGrail will revolutionize plastics recycling through the use of watermarking technology.
- Digimarc digital watermark technology brings value add throughout the lifecycle of a product and all types of package from design through distribution to the store, in the home and all the way through to recycling.
- The technology also creates a new exciting forum for consumer engagement where augmented reality can be used to communicate everything about the product, package and how to recycle.
- Digimarc is also leading the effort to create a new standard for the automatic identification of plastics using digital watermarking. By giving each plastic object its own unique identity that can be discovered by scanning equipment in a recycling facility, industry will seek to achieve increased quality and quantity of yields of recyclates to meet the sustainability targets of manufacturers, brand owners and facility operators and government agencies.
- The imperceptible digital watermark can be added to print materials (labels, sleeves, films) and to molded plastics. It consists of signal tiles that combine a message signal indicating the product and package attributes and a synchronization signal that conveys package orientation to an optical viewing device when being recycled.
- Project Holy Grail has been a successful 3-year collaborative pilot led by Procter & Gamble to embed digital watermarking in packaging as barcodes for recycling that will increase efficiencies in high quality sorting, striving for higher recycling rates, with 5 identification priorities:
– Food vs non-food grade plastics
– Recyclable vs compostable packaging
– Shrink sleeve plastic identification
– New materials introduction
– Mono vs multi material thermoforms and films
- Today, the Circular Economy challenges for 2025 -2030 are huge with corporate and government goals to:
– Eliminate problematic and unnecessary single use packaging through re-design, innovation and
new delivery systems
– Plastics packaging to have average 30% recycled content
– 55% of plastic packaging effectively recycled
– 100% of all packaging reusable, recyclable, compostable
- Hence the opportunity for Project Holy Grail 2.0 to help meet these goals. The project is sponsored by AIM the European Brand Association representing over 85 companies across the entire packaging value chain and will focus on industrial scale trials in Europe through 2021 / 2022. The sorting technology to be used in the recycling facility will be a “bolt on” to existing NIR systems using a combination of high-speed cameras and LED lighting with a positive / negative sort to separate target materials (as determined by the operator vs prevailing end market requirements). Final report to be published late 2022.
- PAC is excited by the promise of this program to deliver a true breakthrough in sorting technology and increased recycling rates for a broad range of valuable packing materials. We are committed to keeping our PAC members up to date with the developments and progress in the EU trials and intend to be at the forefront of supporting the adoption of this technology, when ready, across North America.
Project HolyGrail is sponsored by Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Pioneering Projects. Now in its second phase, Project HolyGrail 2.0 is led by AIM and the European Brands Association who are working with a consortium of over 85
companies to test the technology in market and manufacturing.