2025 is the deadline for companies and businesses to stop manufacturing and marketing single-use plastics and combat the effects of climate change.
Meanwhile, in societies we will continue to generate tons of waste that we must be able to process efficiently and sustainably.
Recycling has become a fundamental pillar for the future Smart Cities, which seek excellence in sustainability. Every time more companies like PICVISA are investing in R&D&i strategies to ensure that companies that generate products, as well as consumers and recycling facilities separate waste for proper treatment.
The fact is that users often have doubts about whether a certain container can be recycled or not. There are materials of which its manufacturing is unknown, therefore, it is not known in which container it should be deposited. A scenario that seems will change in the coming years.
Among all the initiatives that are underway to solve this problem, the Holy Grail Project is based on testing the traceability of packaging by placing invisible codes on materials. The main objective is that users can scan it with the camera of their smartphones (as if it were a QR code) and know if it is possible to recycle it or not to be optimally processed in the recycling facilities.
PepsiCo, Nestle, Henkel, Carrefour or Procter & Gamble, which directs this project, are some of the 29 large companies that have joined this initiative endorsed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in order to accelerate the transition to the circular economy.
For three years a team of experts has investigated the potential of watermarks and chemical tracers to improve the accuracy of recycling through a series of codes invisible to the human eye that help the user and recycling plants for their correct classification.
These codes are engraved on the plastic or waste of difficult classification, in which, using different fluorescent pigments, visible only through an ultraviolet light, distinguish the composition and allow its classification. In this way the containers become intelligent and provide information that until now they did not have on quality control or inventory management, transparency of ingredients, information on their use and how to treat the container at the end of its useful life …
Gian De Belder, project manager of Procter & Gamble explained that this system includes tasks that are not possible today, such as the proper identification of recyclable containers versus compostable:
“The best thing about digital watermarks is that a technology can be used throughout the entire life cycle of a product: from packaging to sorting in recycling plants.”
The purpose is to ensure that a greater quantity of containers and plastics are reused and avoid that they end up being incinerated, or worse, scattered among nature.
Therefore, technology and artificial vision will be key to developing this system of identification through scaners, something in which PICVISA has been working for a decade.