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plastic waste

Digimarc Explores Plastic Waste Sorting Challenges

The company has signed the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's New Plastics Economy Global Commitment to tackle plastics waste at the source.

Digimarc Corporation, inventor of the Intuitive Computing Platform (ICP) featuring Digimarc Barcode, has announced its commitment to improve the reliability and efficiency of sorting plastic waste, most notably signing the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which is focused on building a circular economy. In addition, the company recently completed its participation in Pioneer Project HolyGrail initiated by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy.

By signing the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, Digimarc joins companies such as Nestlé, Unilever, PepsiCo and The Coca-Cola Company. Digimarc will undertake collaborative projects and other initiatives geared toward the early development of a packaging solution that will increase the opportunity for greater sorting accuracy, higher yields and help drive consumer engagement through smartphones to "discover" recycling content on a package.

"The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment unites businesses, governments and others behind a clear vision of a circular economy for plastic,” said Sander Defruyt, lead of the New Plastics Economy initiative at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in a statement. “We are pleased Digimarc is joining us, by setting concrete 2025 targets. Our vision is for a world where plastic never becomes waste or pollution. It will be a challenging journey, but by coming together, we can eliminate the plastics we don't need and innovate, so the plastics we do need can be safely and easily circulated—keeping them in the economy and out of the environment."

Digimarc Barcode offers the potential to more accurately identify plastics and other recyclables by enhancing the packaging, such as labels and shrink sleeves, to contain a unique identifier. In addition, Digimarc Barcode can be used to create a unique identity in the texture of the plastic material itself through the molding and engraving processes.

Plastic waste that can be more easily identified and sorted by an automated sorting machine at a recycling facility can increase the quality and quantity of recyclable materials available to brands that are working to achieve sustainability goals. Digimarc Barcode can also help consumers understand how to dispose their plastic waste to comply with specific municipalities; a scan with a smartphone can indicate what kind of plastic it is and how and where it can be recycled.

"Digimarc's ICP is a multisided platform connecting retailers, consumer brands and consumers in a series of mutually beneficial relationships," said Bruce Davis, CEO of Digimarc, in a statement. "The reduction of plastic waste materials and the creation of a circular economy exemplifies how the ICP benefits all parties on the platform, with retailers and brands being able to meet consumers' desire for more comprehensive recycling."

Digimarc is also involved in high-impact projects and working groups that are addressing some of the biggest challenges in the world of recycling. Digimarc is participating in the Pioneer Project Holy Grail, an initiative driven by the Ellen McArthur Foundation's New Plastics Economy initiative and led by Procter & Gamble. That project aims to develop an industrywide system that leverages technology to simplify the sorting of packaging waste through using a "barcode of recycling."

Pioneer Project HolyGrail includes consumer brands L’Oreal, Danone, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Henkel and retailer Carrefour. 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. Digimarc Barcode distinguishes between food-grade versus non-food-grade containers, and it identifies flexible packaging, carbon-black packaging, the composition of plastic types in multilayers and detects the proper separation and sorting of full-body shrink-sleeved containers.

Digimarc also announced it has become a member of Petcore Europe, a trade association ensuring the sustainable growth of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) as a packaging material of choice. Digimarc is involved in two Petcore Europe technical working groups that are looking at innovative packaging solutions to ensure a continuous increase of post-consumer PET recycling. These working groups are focused on recycling thermoformed PET plastic molds, opaque plastics and other difficult-to-recycle plastic packaging.

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