Interactive watermarks for plastic products

Emile Clement, FiliGrade B.V., Twello,The Netherlands

Challenge area: Revolutionizing plastics recycling

Though many European countries have plastic-specific waste streams, the issue of sorting plastics remains. Interactive watermarks from FiliGrade could help identify different materials, leading to better recycling and reduced contamination rates.

A typical waste plant conveyor belt runs at around 6m/s and is 3m wide, presenting three challenges: how to recognize plastic types at speed, detecting the object in the waste stream and sorting the item into the correct recycling bin.

FiliGrade’s innovation gives plastics a fingerprint. Individual watermarks are engraved or lasered into the mold of each plastic item, eliminating the need for chemical additives. Watermarks on shrink wrapped products are inserted into the artwork. Almost invisible to the human eye, they are detected by digital cameras above the conveyor belt and are readable even if the item is flattened or covered in dirt.

The team is in the process of testing with PET plates and bottles, and glue/silicon containers, but this is by no means limited to PET. This scalable, sustainable solution could pioneer unlimited plastic identification.

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