An important milestone has been reached in the Digital Watermarks Initiative HolyGrail 2.0. with the successful validation of the prototype detection unit for digital watermarks. Semi-industrial testing during which real-life conditions of the unit were mimicked yielded an impressive performance of this first prototype. Developed within the scope of this ongoing pilot project by machine vendor Pellenc ST and digital watermarks technology supplier Digimarc, consistent high results of 99% detection, 95% ejection and 95% purity rates, on average, were achieved across all tested categories of plastic packaging material.
The detection unit is now ready for industrial-scale pilots, which are planned to start later this year.
The Holy Grail 2.0 initiative, established to prove the technical viability of digital watermarks for accurate sorting of packaging waste, is driven by AIM – European Brands Association and powered by the Alliance to End Plastic Waste. Digital watermarks are invisible codes, the size of a postage stamp, covering the surface of a consumer goods packaging and carrying a wide range of attributes. At the sorting facility, the digital watermark is detected and decoded by a high-resolution camera on the sorting line, allowing the packaging to be more accurately sorted into the relevant streams, resulting in higher quality recyclates.
In fact, the digital watermark technology has been shown to achieve a more granular sorting of packaging waste at scale, such as developing separate food and other new PCR streams that currently do not exist (e.g. for cosmetic or detergent applications). This would open up new recycling streams, effectively overcoming the limitations of current near-infrared (NIR) sorting technologies.