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202: Invisible barcodes for recycling

Problem:

Many consumers struggle to figure out which items can be recycled while sorting our rubbish at home. Machines in sorting plants can face the same problem. This prevents many countries from achieving the recycling rates they would such as.

Solution:

Ravi K. Sharma of Digimarc in Portland, Oregon has developed and patented an “invisible” barcode which can more accurately identify recyclable plastics that could prevent their unnecessary disposal into landfills or incinerators.

Digimarc has signed Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which is focused on building a Circular Economy for plastics.

Products have disguised codes printed all over them making it easier to scan distinguishing food-grade plastics from non-food grade plastics so the right kind of plastic can be re used to manufacture new items.

Following successful initial trials carried out by TOMAR at a recycling facility in western Germany, involving scanning and photographing items at 150 frames per second, in 2020 the system will be installed in a conventional waste sorting plant.

The system, called HolyGrail has already involved a consortium of twenty of the world’s biggest brands, including Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Danone.

At home, individuals will be able to use an animated app on their cellphone to identify and place different types of plastic in the right trash cans.

Discover Solution 203: Iron fuel

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