The partnership has initially developed the digital watermark that provides a machine-readable code to ensure proper disposal of the packaging


The partnership developed digital watermark for compostable packaging. (Credit: Dennis from Pixabay.)

Flexible and rigid packaging company Printpack has teamed up with TIPA Compostable Packaging and Digimarc to develop a new sortation technology for compostable packaging.

The partnership has developed the first digital watermark for compostable packaging that provides an invisible, machine-readable code to enable proper disposal.

The new technology, which enables compost operators to scan and sort certified compostable packaging, is expected to expand consumer access to composting.

TIPA director of public affairs Gary Robinson said: “This is the first time we have seen this technology applied to compostable packaging, and we are extremely excited to see its potential impact.

“Brands and consumers are seeking packaging innovations that deliver solutions to their lifestyle while helping the environment. TIPA has taken great measures to develop compelling technologies that deliver the products consumers want.

“Certified compostable packaging provides responsible end-of-life, and composting our food waste is something you can personally do to slow global warming.”

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP), more than half of the food waste in the US ends up in a landfill.

The new technology is expected to help reduce landfill waste and related accumulation of methane, a greenhouse gas.

Compostable packaging is said to support organic recycling of food wastes, diverting them from landfills to composting sites where the organic waste decomposes into compost.

Automatic sortation would enhance composting, and enable consumers to divert the organic waste to a compost operator, said the company.

Digimarc global sustainability leader Emily Stolarcyk said: “We are excited about what this partnership has achieved so far and what is to come. This pilot further demonstrates the variety of solutions that digital watermarking can provide for circular economies.

“Similar to what Digimarc is doing for plastic recycling as part of the Digital Watermarks Initiative HolyGrail 2.0 in Europe, our goal is to increase awareness and access to alternatives that improve waste management across the value chain.”

TIPA, Printpack, and Digimarc aim to identify compostable packaging among mixed food and organic waste, while extracting non-compostable packaging for disposal.

The companies would enable a clean stream of organic waste and certified compostable packaging that can be properly processed to support regenerative agriculture.

According to the partnership, the technology has passed the first step of detecting the watermark, when compostable packaging is stationary.

In the next stage of development, the companies will evaluate the performance while in motion and will simulate the mixed organic materials on a sorting conveyor belt.

Printpack senior product stewardship engineer Alan McDowall said: “New technologies mean there are numerous packaging materials on offer that move us towards a sustainable, circular economy.

“Through this new digital watermark technology, we hope to play an active part in developing the infrastructure innovations that will remove roadblocks, create wider acceptance, and make it simpler than ever to switch to these types of packaging.”