HolyGrail 2.0 launches pilot in France to test digital watermarks for packaging waste
25 Jan 2023 --- Digital Watermarks Initiative HolyGrail 2.0 (HG2.0) is entering the project’s next phase, with a pilot market launching in France. The technology will be tested at scale for detection, ejection and purity at the industrial level, providing stakeholders with real-life data on the value-creation potential of digital watermarks for optimal sorting of packaging waste.
The next phase of the HG2.0 digital watermarks project follows the validation of the detection sorting unit in semi-industrial trials mimicking real-life conditions of the prototype detection unit.
Developed by the machine vendor Pellenc ST and the digital watermarks technology supplier Digimarc, the detection unit is now ready for industrial-scale pilots driven by AIM – European Brands Association and powered by the Alliance to End Plastic Waste.
France has been chosen as the pilot market for multiple reasons, the project details, including support from one of the French producer responsibility nonprofit CITEO, ambitious legislative recycling objectives and big French players involved in HolyGrail 2.0 since the start of the project.
An open invitation to the HG2.0 in-person meeting scheduled for January 30 at Pellenc’s headquarters in Pertuis, France, was sent out to involve the packagers and other stakeholders in discussions regarding the planning of the pilot market.
The HG2.0 technology will be tested in three testing facilities in France and Germany – using enhanced commercial samples from these two countries and Denmark.
Success of phase one
HG2.0 focuses on how digital watermarks can be used to improve post-consumer packaging waste sorting processes.
It looks into coding the surface of packaging for consumer goods with imperceptible codes – also known as digital watermarks. These optical codes are the size of a postage stamp, applied directly within the packaging’s label artwork or embossed in the mold.
PackagingInsights reported the semi-industrial tests of the Pellenc ST/Digimarc prototype, which first began in October 2021 at the Amager Resource Center in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Comprehensive tests were performed on approximately 125,000 pieces of packaging from 260 stock-keeping units at three m/s belt speed, with soiling/crushing and throughput representing routine industrial operations. Additional tests were performed at a higher belt speed of 4.5 m/s, with severe soiling and crushing, without performance loss.
Validation tests commenced in January 2022 as concluding evaluations of the wide-ranging semi-industrial tests, focusing on the readiness of the Pellenc ST/Digimarc prototype for deployment in large-scale pilots in commercial sorting and recycling facilities.
Furthermore, final validation tests were completed in March 2022 at the headquarters of Pellenc ST, where detection and ejection efficiency and purity for sorting PET, PP and PE rigid and flexible films were evaluated.
“Big leaps” in smart packaging
Digital watermarks for smart packaging aims to revolutionize the way packaging is sorted and open new possibilities currently not feasible with existing technologies.
“We have achieved our objective of proving digital watermarks can increase intelligent sorting of packaging waste at scale, enabling new recycling streams that currently do not exist. This would be a fantastic leap forward in achieving the EU recycling goals,” remarked Michelle Gibbons, director general at AIM.
“Innovation and digital are the core drivers toward the Green Transition, and this has been brought to life through HolyGrail 2.0. The engagement across the value chain by dedicated experts and teams to get to this point has been remarkable; now, market participants can decide to be part of industrial-scale pilots to test this at an even bigger scale in Europe.”
Membership in HG2.0 is open to all interested stakeholders from the packaging value chain. So far, the initiative shares that over 160 companies and organizations have registered for the project.
Edited by Radhika Sikaria
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