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Elopak welcomes launch of HolyGrail 2.0 initiative to improve packaging recycling

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Elopak welcomes launch of HolyGrail 2.0 initiative to improve packaging recycling

September 09, 2020 - 13:44
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OSLO, Norway, Sept. 8, 2020 (Press Release) -Today AIM, the European Brands Association, launched HolyGrail 2.0 – a cross-value chain initiative to improve packaging recycling through the use of pioneering digital watermarks. It brings together over 85 companies and organisations from across the packaging value chain to take industry efforts to the next level.

Speaking on the launch, Elopak CEO Thomas Körmendi stated, “Elopak is proud and excited to be part of the HolyGrail 2.0 initiative. It perfectly underscores our commitment to advancing sustainability-focused solutions in the industry through collaboration and innovation.”

The launch follows the recent release of Elopak’s 2019 Sustainability Report in which the company recorded its environmental progress and set out future targets in relation to recycling. This included a commitment to have 100% recyclable beverage cartons available in all markets by 2025 and 70% of all beverage cartons recycled in the EU and Canada by 2025.

“We are consistently taking steps to make our cartons more easily recyclable, for example designing them with easy-fold lines that help the consumer to squeeze out any remaining product and fold the carton for easier recycling collection,” Director of Sustainability Marianne Groven explained.

“We proactively support the drive to increase recycling rates in pursuit of a low carbon circular economy. Through our membership of several industry associations we work with local authorities to improve collection rates and the recycling of cartons around the world.

The HolyGrail 2.0 initiative is an exciting development in this regard because of the potential it has to revolutionise waste management systems, resulting in more efficient sorting of packaging and higher recovery rates for materials,” she continued.

The full statement on the launch reads as follows:

Pioneering digital watermarks for smart packaging recycling in the EU – AIM, the European Brands Association, launches cross-value chain initiative to drive circular economy goals

Under the auspices of AIM, the European Brands Association, over 85 companies and organisations from the complete packaging value chain have joined forces with the ambitious goal to assess whether a pioneering digital technology can enable better sorting and higher-quality recycling rates for packaging in the EU, to drive a truly circular economy.

One of the most pressing challenges in achieving a circular economy for packaging is to better sort post-consumer waste by accurately identifying packaging, resulting in more efficient and higher-quality recycling. Digital watermarks may have the potential to revolutionise the way packaging is sorted in the waste management system, as it opens new possibilities that are currently not feasible with existing technologies. The discovery was made under the New Plastics Economy programme of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which investigated different innovations to improve post-consumer recycling. Digital watermarks were found to be the most promising technology, gathering support among the majority of stakeholders and passing a basic proof of concept on a test sorting line. The branded goods industry has now stepped in to facilitate the next phase as cross-value chain initiative under the name “HolyGrail 2.0”, which will take place on a much greater scale and scope. This will include the launch of an industrial pilot in order to prove the viability of digital watermarks technologies for more accurate sorting of packaging and higher-quality recycling, as well as the business case at large scale.

“The 3 key ingredients here are innovation, sustainability and digital, combined to achieve the objective of the Green Deal towards a clean, circular and climate neutral economy”, outlines Michelle Gibbons, Director General at AIM. “It is terrific to see such enthusiasm from across the industry and to be able to unite such expertise from the complete packaging value chain, from brand owners and retailers to converters, EPR schemes, waste management systems, recyclers and many more. Collaboration is the way forward to achieve the EU’s circular economy goals.”

Digital watermarks are imperceptible codes, the size of a postage stamp, covering the surface of a consumer goods packaging. They can carry a wide range of attributes such as manufacturer, SKU, type of plastics used and composition for multilayer objects, food vs. non-food usage, etc. The aim is that once the packaging has entered into a waste sorting facility, the digital watermark can be detected and decoded by a standard high resolution camera on the sorting line, which then – based on the transferred attributes – is able to sort the packaging into corresponding streams. This would result in better and more accurate sorting streams, and thus consequently in higher-quality recyclates, benefiting the complete packaging value chain. Next to this “digital recycling passport”, digital watermarks also have the potential to be used in other areas such as consumer engagement, supply chain visibility and retail operations.

About Digital Watermarks Initiative HolyGrail 2.0

The Digital Watermarks Initiative HolyGrail 2.0 – facilitated by AIM, the European Brands Association, as the next iteration of the initial HolyGrail project under the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2016-2019) – is a pilot project with the objective to prove the viability of digital watermarking technologies for accurate sorting and consequently higher-quality recycling, as well as the business case at large scale. Digital watermarks are imperceptible codes, the size of a postage stamp, covering the surface of a consumer goods packaging and carrying a wide range of attributes. The aim is that once the packaging has entered into a waste sorting facility, the digital watermark can be detected and decoded by a standard high resolution camera on the sorting line, which then – based on the transferred attributes (e.g. food vs. non-food) – is able to sort the packaging in corresponding streams. This would result in better and more accurate sorting streams, thus consequently in higher-quality recyclates benefiting the complete packaging value chain.