Canadian Plastics

The Circular Plastic Taskforce partners to launch pilot to optimize sortation of flexible packaging

Canadian Plastics   

Canadian Plastics Recycling

The project marks the start of Phase II of the CPT, which aims to carry out or support projects to improve the recycling of all plastic packaging in Canada.

Image Credit: Circular Plastic Taskforce

The Circular Plastic Taskforce (CPT) has partnered with Digimarc Corp., a supplier of product digitization technologies, to test a new sorting system for recycled flexible plastic packaging in Canada.

The Digimarc Recycle system is being called “a first in North America”, and marks the start of Phase II of the CPT, which aims to carry out or support projects to improve the recycling of all plastic packaging within the evolving Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) landscape in Quebec and Canada.

“Digimarc Recycle represents a revolution in the sortation, and thus the recycling, of plastic waste,” CPT officials said in a June 9 news release. “Digital watermarks are applied within the package artwork, no special inks or print process required, and are visible to specialized sorting equipment but imperceptible to consumers.”

The watermarks, when scanned by machine cameras, connect to a cloud-based database containing unlimited (and extensible) characteristics of the package, such as the manufacturer and specific product, prior use (food versus non-food), additives or the presence of components that are problematic for recycling; as such, the news release said, it can help facilitate flexible packaging sortation.


“We are thrilled to launch such a forward-looking project and get our Phase II underway,” the CPT’s steering committee said. “The results from our Phase I study show that even if flexible plastic packaging represents a significant portion of plastic packaging used in Quebec and Canada, their recovery rates remain low. One of the reasons is that today’s sortation equipment cannot distinguish between mono-material recyclable packaging and multi-material structures, therefore lowering bale quality. We believe Digimarc Recycle can help solve this challenge.” The members of the CPT steering committee are Cascades, Danone Canada, Dyne-a-pak, Keurig Dr Pepper Canada, TC Transcontinental, the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, and Éco Entreprises Québec.

The first part of the project consists of testing the ability of specialized optical sorters to adequately capture flexible packaging with digital watermarks in a controlled environment. This test will be performed at the Pellenc R&D Center in Pertuis, France, with various flexible packaging samples manufactured by Canadian firms Balcan Innovations, TC Transcontinental (co-founder of the CPT), and Winpak Ltd. Following the results of this initial test, CPT said, the second part of the project, which should begin in 2023, will aim at testing this solution in a real-life environment and at a much larger scale, with the goal of producing film bales meeting the high-quality specifications of recyclers. To do so, specialized sorting equipment will be installed in sorting centers and recyclers in Quebec and Ontario to capture flexible packaging with digital watermarking put on the market by our retail and brand partners.

The project also seeks to confirm the effectiveness of Digimarc Recycle to provide traceability of packaging. “Traceability is a prerequisite to produce food-grade recycled resin and will be key to comply with upcoming regulations that will be implemented to accelerate the transition to a circular economy for plastics,” CPT said.

Based in Montreal, the CPT was founded in early 2020 to develop a circular economy for plastics in Canada.



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