Digimarc (Beaverton, Ore.), the technology company behind the Digimarc Platform, has designated PACCOR, a global packaging company, as a Platinum Pioneer Plastics Partner, the companies announced on March 9. Digimarc and PACCOR have been collaborating to increase the recyclability and circularity of plastic packaging for several years. According to the release, the objectives of the partnership are to “develop and commercialize a solution for high-speed sorting of plastic packaging items with Digimarc Barcode.”

The Pioneer Plastics Partner designation aims to recognize the contributions to the joint projects to date, including PACCOR’s “innovative practices, their investment in research and development, the leadership position they have achieved in packaging sustainability, and their commitment to the commercialization of [Digimarc Platform],” says Robert Chamness, Digimarc’s executive vice president of sustainability.

The Digimarc Platform, which features the Digimarc Barcode, is designed to enhance automatic identification of objects by providing plastic with a “digital recycling passport.” About the size of a postage stamp, digital watermarks, like the Digimarc Barcode, are QR-style codes that can be printed directly on packaging. The Digimarc Barcode is nearly imperceptible to the naked eye and it covers the entire surface of the packaging.

In 2020, PACCOR became the first packaging manufacturer to apply Digimarc Barcodes to commercially available rigid plastic packaging surfaces. As their partnership grows, Digimarc continues to provide PACCOR with technical advice, support, and access to the Digimarc Platform. While PACCOR provides access to and support from its Center of Development & Innovation (CDI) to help move forward plastic packaging solutions for recycling and circularity.

PACCOR can apply the Digimarc Barcode through various technologies, including thermoforming, and injected and compression molding labeling, as well as in printing. According to Digimarc, plastics with the “digital recycling passport” can be scanned and easily identified during collection and sorting processes, which “will create new value streams for recycled plastics and keep used packaging from ending up in landfills and in our oceans.”

Ideally, better detection and sortation should improve the economics and efficiencies for recyclers and global retailers. For example, the Digimarc Barcode can identify whether a piece of plastic was previously used for food or non-food purposes. This identification should help food companies interested in purchasing recycled plastic for reuse in new packaging. According to current European regulations, food companies can only purchase recycled plastic previously used for food. For recyclers, more accurate sorting means an increase in the value of the final bales and the total number of recyclable materials. What’s more, because there are repeating copies of barcode covering the packaging, cameras can detect information on the packaging even if it’s damaged.

 

To stay up-to-date about developments in plastics recycling, consider attending the Plastics Spotlight at ISRI2021, ISRI’s virtual convention, from 2:45–3:45 p.m. on Thursday, April 22. Click here to register for ISRI2021.