German retailer adopts digital watermarks to enhance plastics recycling

German retailer Netto Marken-Discount is using digital watermarks in its private label food and beverage packaging.

The innovation allows for automated validation of the packaging’s source when it enters the recycling stream.

The digital watermarks, supplied by Digimarc, are invisible to the naked eye, and also make the checkout process simpler at the retailer’s 4,300 stores in Germany.

“We initially cooperated with Digimarc to optimize our checkout by digitizing our private label food and beverage products with Digimarc’s technology,” said Christina Stylianou, Netto corporate spokesperson.

“Netto is now also well positioned to adopt Digimarc Recycle by leveraging the same Digimarc digital watermarking technology that makes the checkout easier and more efficient. We are ready and excited for Digimarc Recycle to come to Germany in the near future.”

Retailers like Netto implement the digital watermarking, imperceptible to the human eye, across a package’s or label artwork’s surface area. The covert nature of digital watermarks works well with packaging designs and branding. Netto has added the watermarks to 1,000s of food and beverage packages.

“It is exciting to partner with retailers like Netto that are setting the example for the rest of the industry and leading the way for a circular economy,” said Digimarc CEO Riley McCormack.

“More sustainable packaging is becoming a business imperative, and Digimarc’s digital watermarks are transforming recycling as a validated way to improve circularity dramatically.”

Since 2018, Netto Marken-Discount has been the first and only retailer in Germany to integrate Digimarc’s digital watermarks on the packaging of its private-label food range. “The fact that Digimarc digital watermarks didn’t obscure our branding and therefore enhanced packaging was another important factor in selecting Digimarc as a long-term partner,” added Stylianou.

The route to circularity

Netto focuses on four areas for sustainability: the careful use of resources, a sustainable purchasing strategy, fair trade and cooperation, and social commitment. In addition to expanding Netto’s sustainable private-label products, the retailer is reducing its ecological footprint through initiatives focused on climate protection, biodiversity, freshwater, and resources.

“At Netto, we are committed to less plastic packaging, more recycling, and more responsibility,” said Ms. Stylianou. “Digimarc is a valued partner in supporting us in achieving our sustainability goals as we look to the future.”

Commitment to end plastic pollution

Digimarc Recycle is advancing the sortation of plastic waste and recycling. By linking covert digital watermarks, with an extensible cloud-based repository of product attributes (such as brand, SKU, product variant, packaging composition, food/non-food use, etc.), Digimarc Recycle overcomes the limitations of today’s optical sorting technologies. The same information used to drive this advanced sortation in facilities can provide product-specific and location-based disposal instructions via a brand-owned direct-to-consumer digital communication channel accessed via on-pack watermarks or QR codes.

In addition to providing the information necessary to power advanced sortation at recycling facilities, Digimarc Recycle captures and provides a holistic view of the post-purchase product journey, unlocking never-before-seen data benefitting stakeholders across the value chain.

Digimarc Recycle is expected to launch soon in France and Canada, with conversations ongoing in other countries around the globe.