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HolyGrail 2.0

Marking plastic packaging with digital watermarks to enable automatic sorting in recycle centres

January 2020
Gallery HolyGrail 2.0 1
Gallery HolyGrail 2.0 1


HolyGrail 2.0 aims to improve post-consumer recycling using digital watermarks, with the aim of moving closer to a circular economy.

HolyGrail has been a full-value chain pre-competitive collaboration project (29 members - see picture) investigating how tagging of packaging can have a drastic impact on more accurate sorting and high-quality recycling. The key precepts behind the project are that, once packaging is designed for circularity and the collection challenge (which includes putting right collection system in place and consumer participation) are solved, high quality sorting is a crucial step to improving current recycling rates and ensuring better recyclate enters the packaging stream. Digital watermarks are basically “imperceptible codes” applied to artwork/design of a package or directly into the mold. No special ink nor special printing equipment is required to implement. The "barcode of recycling" has been worked within the New Plastics Economy from the Ellen MacArthur foundation and is now entering a second phase (HolyGrail 2.0), focussing on more brand owners and retailers to implement Digital Watermarks in their packaging. This will allow waste manufacturers to invest in add-on modules (linked to existing sorters) that can read these codes, allowing them to sort/recycle much better than today. Currently over 170 cross-value chain members have shown interest to participate, and the project will be chartered under an EU association that has created a Platform to further develop and run a National test market. Once packaging is designed for circularity, the collection challenge and consumer participation are solved, high quality sorting is indeed crucial to increase current poor recycling rates. By improved sorting, quality and quantities of recycled materials will be drastically increased, thereby helping the transition to a Circular Economy as more and better recyclate can enter the marketplace. HolyGrail has mainly been established to bring innovation in the field of sorting technologies. One of the investigated technologies (Digital Watermarks) has great potential to also bring disruption into other fields, such as consumer engagement and retail, enabled by the creation of "smart/intelligent" packaging.

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Label Date January 15, 2020
From United States
Maturity stage Prototype testing in the real world

Implementation Stories

HolyGrail 2.0 by Procter & Gamble - P&G
Implemented by Decathlon in Ottawa (Canada) in 2021

The City of Copenhagen has tested digital watermarks for smart packaging sorting and recycling in collaboration with the multi stakeholder initiative HolyGrail 2.0. From September 2021 through January 2022, digitally enhanced packaging prototypes were supplied by the 160+corporate partners and underwent various waste like treatments at a test sorting facility. The manipulated packaging was then sorted using the information derived from the individual digital watermarks.


99% detected objects & 95% of objects were sorted with a 95% average purity rate


The environmental benefits

  • By increasing recycling rates drastically (enabled by better sorting through Digital Watermarks), CO2 savings of 7.48 million tons could be generated
  • Intelligent packaging can contribute to realize circular economies faster, by using the intelligence with consumers (consumer engagement/info on how to recycle) and sorting/recycling centers

The Financial benefits

  • Reach payback in 10 months
  • Economic benefits are generated across the value chain

Activity Region

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  • Headquarters
  • Activity

Company Profile

Procter & Gamble - P&G

P&G was founded over 180 years ago as a soap and candle company.

View company profile
Headquarters Cincinnati, OH 45202, USA
Contact the Solution Provider Add to Favorites

The information set out above, is solely for the purposes of information and the Solar Impulse Foundation does not provide any guarantee as to its authenticity, completeness or accuracy. This information does not constitute investment advice or a recommendation to buy into, transact or to enter into any agreement with any of the parties or persons mentioned above. Potential investors or interested parties are solely responsible for their investment or business decisions and for performing any due diligence required by the circumstances. The innovator Procter & Gamble - P&G has asserted ownership of the intellectual property rights for images, videos, and content showcased above, affirming full and unrestricted usage rights, and has provided explicit permission for the Solar Impulse Foundation to publish such information designated as "public" in the application form.