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STOCKHOLM - Hygiene and health company Essity has joined a pilot project aimed at improving sorting and increasing the recycling rates for plastic packaging in the EU.

The Digital Watermarks Initiative HolyGrail 2.0 works by adding invisible codes to packaging, so that waste sorting facilities can identify the type of plastic and sort it accordingly. The initiative is a large-scale pilot project driven by AIM - European Brands Association and powered by the Alliance to End Plastic Waste.

Essity, together with 130 companies, is working to develop the technical capability of digital watermarks to improve accuracy in sorting packaging waste, as well as the economic viability of the business case on a large scale.

“The Digital Watermarks Initiative will increase the recycling rates of plastic packaging as well as unlock access to higher quality recycled materials for the industry to improve the circularity of packaging, bringing us one step closer to a circular economy," said Volker Zöller, president, Consumer Goods at Essity. "Essity’s products and solutions are necessities in people’s everyday lives, and we want to take responsibility for the whole life cycle, including after the products are used.”

Digital watermarks are invisible codes the size of a postage stamp. After the packaging has entered a waste sorting facility, a high-resolution camera decodes the watermark and sorts the plastic waste accordingly. This is said to significantly improve the accuracy of how post-consumer packaging waste is sorted and provide a higher quality of recycled materials for reuse. It will also improve the availability of recycled materials in the supply chain, enabling Essity and other companies to use more recycled plastic in their packaging.

Essity says that its ambition is to improve well-being for people around the world through its hygiene and health products, in parallel with reducing its environmental footprint. Developing products and services for a circular society calls for creative thinking, new business models and partnerships.

Essity is working toward 100% recyclability and 85% renewable or recycled materials in its packaging by 2025. During 2020, the company’s packaging comprised of 77% renewable or recycled materials. These targets are part of Essity’s commitment to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global pledge to eliminate plastic pollution, The Global Commitment.


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