In a recent webinar, “Watermarks for Plastic Recycling: Accelerate from Planning to Action,” addressed digital watermarking for plastic recycling. Our Chief Product Officer, Ken Sickles, was joined by host Tim Sykes, Brand Director of Packaging Europe, and expert panelists from Mondelēz International and SGK.
The group, which included Richard Akkermans, European R&D Packaging Sustainability Manager at Mondelēz International, and Carsten Hoppmann, Packaging and Digital Transformation Expert at SGK, discussed the current state of recycling — 42% of plastic recycling was achieved across the EU last year, below EU target of 50% by 2025 and 55% by 2050 — and addressed the importance of businesses taking action to improve recycling circularity.
“It's about responsibility,” Mr. Akkermans said. “So, the first benefit is just making sure that the packaging that companies put out on the marketplace is actually being processed and recycled. Eventually the benefit is to make sure it's recycled back to the original application because that's when you get true circularity, so I think that there are short term and longer-term benefits for companies."
“Waiting and see is just not an option.”
– Richard Akkermans, European R&D Packaging Sustainability Manager Mondelēz International
When asked why he felt it was important for brands to get involved, Akkermans said: “Waiting and see is just not an option because unless people are leaning forward, sending the demand signals for the type of recycled plastic that could be available, if it's sorted and processed correctly getting involved to be part of the technology solution for allowing that to happen. I'd rather be seeing than waiting and seeing.”
One question on the minds of attendees was how the watermarks could be integrated into existing product packaging. Sickles addressed this, noting that digital watermarks can be applied on nearly all materials, including the product label and the plastic or cardboard packaging itself. While some attendees asked if the digital watermark would impact branding or cause food safety issues, Hoppmann noted that the integrity of a company’s branding would remain intact, while Akkermans said that there was no food safety issue with the digital watermarking, which requires no special inks.
“From my point of view, in the future embedding a digital watermark for recycling will become so natural and will be taken into count already from the very first step of a new design development, so this issue will more or less disappear in future,” Hoppmann said. Sickles also discussed how to identify a digital watermark, and the panel discussed the possibilities of the digital watermark and coupled with its digital counterpart — a digital identity — in the cloud.
“I do like to dream a bit in terms of once you've got that digital watermarking in there. The applications of it are endless but the unique one for right now is that 360 [packaging] coverage that means it can be sorted and recycled. That's a good entry ticket,” Akkermans said.
To learn more about how digital watermarks can aid both brand and consumer recycling efforts, watch the free webinar replay now.