HolyGrail 2.0

Gallery HolyGrail 2.0 1
Gallery HolyGrail 2.0 1
January 2020
Headquarters Cincinnati, OH 45202, USA

HolyGrail 2.0 - Marking Plastic Packaging with Digital Watermarks to enable automatic sorting in recycle centres and create value across full life cycle of a package.

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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Key features

  • 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


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

Company Profile

Maturity Stage

  • Medium and large scale commercialization
  • Small scale commercialization
  • Initial market commercialization
  • Prototype testing in the real world
  • Prototype testing 1:1 in the lab

Activity Region

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  • Headquarters
  • Activity

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