Solid Waste & Recycling

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Digimarc barcoding proven to help plastics recycling


BEAVERTON, Ore. – Digimarc Corporation, inventor of the Intuitive Computing Platform (ICP), has recently completed its participation in Pioneer Project HolyGrail initiated by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy.

Digimarc Barcode was shown in testing to overcome many current limitations in plastic sorting technology, making it easier to accurately identify plastics that qualify for recycling and prevent their unnecessary disposal into landfills or incinerators.

Pioneer Project HolyGrail was a three-year initiative and full-value chain collaboration project led by Procter & Gamble with 29 participating partners, including consumer brands L’Oreal, Danone, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Henkel and retailer Carrefour. In a published report, the tests show that Digimarc Barcode, by turning plastic containers into “intelligent objects,” could accomplish sorting techniques that have been impossible for the industry to achieve.

By accurately distinguishing between food-grade versus non-food grade containers, Digimarc Barcode addresses one of the industry’s greatest unmet challenges to date, and could have a major impact on developments in recycling in the near future. In addition, it identifies flexible packaging, carbon-black packaging, the composition of plastic types in multi-layers and detects the proper separation and sorting of full-body shrink-sleeved containers.

Digimarc Barcode provides a unique, scannable 3D identity when applied in plastic substrates. The dataset carried by the code can convey a wide range of attributes, including the waste item’s manufacturer, product SKU, and manufacturing facility.

Digimarc Barcode automatically instructs sorting mechanisms to separate the plastic waste for higher quality and quantity of recyclable materials, helping to ensure that manufacturers can meet their public commitments for use of recycled content and to comply with government mandates. The scanning capability can also be retrofitted into existing sorting facilities upon commercialization.

Digimarc Barcode can also be applied to shrink sleeves and paper labels providing opportunities for increasing the likelihood of identification and the amount of data that can be obtained. The multiple layer enhancement supports many other efficiencies in manufacturing, supply chain, retail operations and consumer engagement.

It could also allow consumers to scan products with smartphones to learn how to properly separate plastic objects in conformity with their curbside waste service provider.

“Digimarc Barcode is unique because it creates ‘intelligent objects’ that provide ‘hyper sorting’ in recycling facilities,” said Larry Logan, chief evangelist, Digimarc.

“The HolyGrail test results demonstrate a viable path towards much greater plastics recycling, leading to reduced waste, and validates our engagement with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. It’s gratifying to see how these capabilities can be readily applied for social good in support of a Circular Economy for plastics.”

The Global Commitment aims to build a Circular Economy for plastics by bringing together key stakeholders to rethink and redesign the future of plastics, which Digimarc signed in April 2019.