Milliken & Company’s Chemical Division has joined the Holy Grail 2.0 initiative, a large-scale project that is testing the viability of digital watermarking technologies for the accurate sorting of plastics for recycling.
This initiative is part two of a pioneering project facilitated by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation called HolyGrail 1.0, that brought together brand owners, retailers, recyclers, packaging producers and sorting technology providers from across the plastics value chain to investigate ways to improve the sorting of post-consumer plastics. After various methods had been evaluated, including the use of chemical tracers, the participants found digital watermarks to be the most promising technology, not least because of the possibilities it opened up for smart packaging that could promote consumer engagement, supply chain visibility and retail operations.
After a basic proof-of-concept for smart sorting was developed, HolyGrail 2.0 was initiated to prove the viability of digital watermarking technologies for accurate sorting and the business case on a semi-industrial scale.
In Holy Grail 2.0, a large group of brand owners and retailers are working together with packaging and technology suppliers to modify their packaging with digital watermarks provided by the technology partner(s). The technology partners will adapt larger sorting facilities to incorporate watermark readers necessary to process at a large scale.
At Milliken, one of the key priorities is to improve the recyclability of plastics by developing additives that improve the performance of polyolefins and allow for higher percentages of post-consumer resin to be incorporated. “HolyGrail 2.0 fits into our vision of a circular future,” said Wim Van de Velde, Milliken’s vice president Europe, Middle East and Africa (Chemical Division).
Following the validation of the Digital Watermarking Project at semi-industrial scale, packaging coded with digital watermarks will be introduced in a national test market. The project is scheduled to report on its findings in mid-2022.