Holy Grail 2.0 in phase 3
Digital watermarks are invisible to the human eye, yet they contain a wealth of information. They will play a key role in the packaging industry and Europe’s sorting facilities in the future, especially when it comes to helping improve recyclability.
The HolyGrail 2.0 digital watermarks initiative is driven by the European Brands Association (AIM), powered by the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, and supported by more than 160 well-known companies – including Greiner Packaging. With a prototype watermark detection system now developed and semi-industrial sampling and testing carried out, the initiative has entered its third phase, aimed at demonstrating the potential of digital watermarks under real market conditions. Commercial products will be placed on three test markets: Denmark, Germany, and France. Greiner Packaging is collaborating with two brand owners in phase three.
Fabian Grabner, global product group manager at Greiner Packaging and the company’s project lead for the HolyGrail 2.0 initiative, shares his thoughts on the project, the future of digital watermarks, and the results expected from phase three.
What is Greiner Packaging’s motivation for participating in the HolyGrail 2.0 initiative?
As a leading company in the plastics processing industry, we have been striving to improve the sustainability of our products for many years. As well as looking at how our products are recycled and how they can be fed back into material streams, we have also been exploring ways of making our packaging smart and digital. Initiatives like HolyGrail 2.0 are a perfect fit with our strategy and bring together different stakeholders in the industry who have the same interests.
What results are you expecting from phase three of HolyGrail 2.0?
We expect the positive results from previous semi-industrial tests to be confirmed. In phase two, cups from Greiner Packaging performed impressively, with identification and ejection rates of over 90%. In phase three, we are now beginning field trials for the first time. Products featuring a digital watermark will actually find their way onto supermarket shelves and then into recycling plants, where the detection and sorting process will take place.
When do you expect to see initial results from phase three?
Once the first products are actually on the market, the first packaging items will find their way back into the recycling loop after just a few weeks. If everything goes according to plan, we expect to have the initial results from phase three as early as the beginning of 2023.
Which packaging products will you be placing on the test markets?
We are mainly focusing on direct-printed products and our K3® cardboard-plastic combinations.
What will be the next steps for Greiner Packaging if the results of phase three are positive?
First of all, positive test results must be followed by a commitment from sorting facilities. As soon as detection systems are widely available at sorting facilities, it will make sense to add digital watermarks to all packaging. We will be ready for anything that might result.
What are the benefits of digital watermarks for customers?
The most important benefit, of course, is that digital watermarks will make our customers’ packaging detectable and ultimately recyclable. But they will also provide another way for our customers to engage with consumers and offer additional services together with their product, such as further nutritional information, recipe suggestions, or special offers, which can be accessed by scanning the digital watermark.