Bakers Journal

Circular Plastic Taskforce partners with Digimarc Corp. to launch pilot to optimize sortation of flexible packaging in Canada

June 10, 2022
By Bakers Journal

Montreal – The Circular Plastic Taskforce is partnering with Digimarc Corporation to test Digimarc Recycle for optimizing the sortation of flexible plastic packaging in Canada.

This project marks the start of Phase II of the CPT, which aims to carry out or support projects to improve the recycling of all plastic packaging within the evolving Extended Producer Responsibility in Quebec and across Canada.

Digimarc Recycle creates digital watermarks that are applied within the package artwork – no special inks or print process required – and are visible to
specialized sorting equipment but imperceptible to consumers. The watermarks, when scanned by machine cameras, connect to a cloud-based database containing unlimited (and extensible) characteristics of the package, such as the manufacturer and specific product, prior use (food versus non-food), additives or the presence of
components that are problematic for recycling. As such, it can help facilitate flexible packaging sortation.

“The results from our Phase I study show that even if flexible plastic packaging represents a significant portion of plastic packaging used in Quebec and Canada, their recovery rates remain low,” said the Circular Plastics Taskforce Steering Committee.


“One of the reasons is that today’s sortation equipment cannot distinguish between mono-material recyclable packaging and multi-material structures, therefore lowering bale quality. We believe Digimarc Recycle can help solve this challenge.”

“Digimarc’s digital watermarks, a key component of Digimarc Recycle, have proven to be a truly innovative way to correctly identify each unique package. Connecting watermarks to an extensible database of product and packaging attributes ensures we can help enable a more circular economy now and in the future,” said Emily Stolarcyk, Sustainability Program Director for Business Development at
Digimarc Corporation. “This will benefit facilities and brands in meeting their recycling goals, in both the increase of volume and the purity of recycled material.”

The first part of the project consists of testing the ability of specialized optical sorters to adequately capture flexible packaging with digital watermarks in a controlled environment. This test will be performed at the Pellenc ST R&D Center in Pertuis, France, with various flexible packaging samples manufactured by Balcan Innovations, TC Transcontinental (co-founder of the CPT,) and Winpak LTD.

Following the results of this initial test, the second part of the project, which should begin in 2023, will aim at testing this solution in a real-life environment and at a much larger scale, with the goal of producing film bales meeting the high-quality specifications of recyclers. To do so, specialized sorting equipment will be installed in sorting centers and recyclers in Quebec and Ontario to capture flexible packaging with digital watermarking put on the market by our retail and brand partners.

The project also seeks to confirm the effectiveness of Digimarc Recycle to provide traceability of packaging, a prerequisite to produce food-grade recycled resin that the task force said will be key to comply with upcoming regulations that will be implemented to accelerate the transition to a circular economy for plastics.

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