Digital watermarking technology gets supermarket debut in The Netherlands

The CurvCode digital watermark sorting system for plastic waste, which featured at the recent AIPIA Congress, is set to make its first appearance on supermarket shelves in the Netherlands with Bond Seafood’s recyclable packaging for fish designed by MULTIVAC, says a report in Packaging Europe.

AIPIA member FiliGrade, based in Eindhoven, has developed the patented CurvCode digital watermark to facilitate the separation of food packaging from household waste and other plastics, helping to create residual flows that can be recycled back into food packaging. According to the company, this is an important step in developing a circular plastics supply chain.

Bond Seafood’s tray for fish and, says the company, has been monomaterial PET since last year. Now, the packaging is reportedly made of recycled PET and features the CurvCode watermark – the first product in the Netherlands to do so. The new packaging will be used for products like smoked mackerel and herring fillets at Jumbo Supermarkets.

At present, FiliGradesays it has around 30 partners committed to collaborating on plastic waste sorting in the Netherlands with technology including CurvCode. A new  "Coalition Food2Food 2.0" thas been formed by these partners committed to circular use of plastic. The focus is on an industrial test of CurvCode. The operational and financial effects of transitioning to a circular plastic chain are also investigated. Recycling single-use food packaging is an urgent social problem. These packaging materials represent approximately 40% of the plastic volume in the Netherlands. 

FiliGrade is working with the European Commission on plastic sorting and recycling research projects, as well as being active within Plastic Pact NL, European Plastic Pact, and PetCore. The company is an associate member of the HolyGrail 2.0 initiative, also a topic at the AIPIA Congress. This is a similar watermarking system and has received more widespread coverage across Europe, with over 130 companies from the packaging value chain having joined the initiative.

In September, HolyGrail 2.0 entered semi-industrial trials with a pilot project in the City of Copenhagen, where a prototype sorting detection unit was installed to demonstrate the technology, with around 125,000 pieces of packaging. The sorting technology developed by Pellenc ST and AIPIA member Digimarc uses NIR/VIS infrared to recognize and sort watermarked packaging. The pilot showed a >95%  successful ejection rate.The next steps for HolyGrail 2.0 involve an installation in France at Recyclers and MRFs for industrial testing.

With CurvCode, FiliGradeis looking to expand the scope of its operations. Han Meiberg, business development director at FiliGrade, explains, “We want to accelerate and believe in high-quality sorting and recycling, in the Netherlands, and then also in the rest of Europe.”The company also intends for the technology to be used on other types of plastic, including PP and PE.

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