New Report Spotlights State of Circularity in the U.S. Built Environment, Highlighting Key Opportunities to Reduce Waste

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June 12, 2024

Funded by 3M, the latest report from the Closed Loop Foundation puts a spotlight on innovation, policy and partnership trends that can help inspire less wasteful building practices and advance circular outcomes in the U.S.

Read the full report

June 12, 2024, New York, NY — Today, the Closed Loop Foundation released a new industry report, Better Buildings: Key Drivers for Constructing a Circular Built Environment in the U.S. The report, which was researched and written by the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, shares an overview of fundamental circular economy principles that can be applied to the built environment, illustrated by best practice case studies across the country. These examples showcase where circularity in the built environment is already underway in the U.S.

The man-made structures in which society lives, works and plays has a profound impact on quality of life and well-being. The built environment also bears a tremendous environmental cost, with construction and demolition waste constituting a staggering 30-40% of all globally generated solid waste.[1] Moreover, 30% of materials delivered to building sites are ultimately discarded as waste.[2] Materials that constitute buildings and their construction are also responsible for 11% of global energy related carbon emissions.[3] This report is released as the U.S. construction industry faces urgent waste and climate challenges. Within the U.S. alone, construction and demolition debris represents 600 million tons of waste—over 90% stemming from demolition.[4] In New York City, building materials represent 70% of embodied carbon emissions while construction and demolition debris makes up over 60% of the city’s entire solid waste stream.[5]

Transitioning the built environment away from being developed with linear “take-make-waste” practices into one that embodies circular principles––designing out waste and keeping resources in use––is a huge undertaking. To illustrate what a path forward could look like, this report provides a snapshot of where circular economy principles have been incorporated into the built environment in the U.S. The report identifies three key drivers—innovation, policy, partnerships—with a spotlight on investment. It explores innovative circular concepts and approaches related to design, such as design for deconstruction, healthy materials innovation, data management tools like building information modelling, and end-of-life strategies such as adaptive reuse. It provides an overview of federal, state and city regulations advancing circularity through mandated emissions reduction and waste diversion targets. Finally, it examines various cross-sector collaboration models and financing gaps and opportunities.

“At 3M, we are committed to using science and innovation to improve lives and help solve the world’s biggest challenges, including reducing waste and embracing circularity,” says Michael Stroik, Vice President, Community Relations at 3M. “This report from the Closed Loop Foundation provides critical insights into how we can reimagine the built environment in the U.S. through a circular lens. By spotlighting innovative design approaches, supportive policies, collaborative partnerships and case studies across the U.S, this pulse report highlights circular economy-focused work in the built environment to date, with the hope to inspire and accelerate more work in this area.”

“While the U.S. still lags behind Europe in applying circular economy principles to the built environment, this report spotlights where circularity is already underway as a critical first step to identifying circular strategies for the next generation of buildings,” says Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, which researched and drafted the report. “These examples show it is possible to reimagine design processes, construction methodologies and material selections to enhance resource efficiency and catalyze economic growth.”

The report is a call for stakeholders across the building value chain—from architects and developers to policymakers and investors—to champion circularity and usher in a new era of sustainable built environments.

About the Closed Loop Foundation

Based in New York City, the Closed Loop Foundation (CLF) aims to further the research and development needed to build a more circular economy. Since its founding, the Foundation has supported numerous organizations, companies and communities working to reduce food, packaging and plastic waste.

CLF received a grant from 3M to fund and release this body of work, which was prepared by the Center for the Circular Economy, the innovation arm of Closed Loop Partners, a firm focused on building the circular economy. The Center executes research and analytics, unites organizations to tackle complex material challenges and implements systemic change that advances the circular economy.

 

SOURCES:

[1] Shiran Pallewatta et al., Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, Reprocessed construction and demolition waste as an adsorbent: An appraisal,” July 15, 2023.

[2] Mohamed Osmani, “Chapter 15 – Construction Waste,” in Waste: A Handbook for Management pages 207-218.

[3] World Green Building Council, “Bringing embodied carbon upfront.”

[4] United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Construction and Demolition Debris: Material-Specific Data.”

[5] NYC EDC, “Circular Design & Construction Guidelines.”

 

 

Can Compostable Packaging Recovery Help States Reduce Food Waste and Advance Zero Waste Goals? The Composting Consortium’s Toolkit Offers Policymakers the Resources to Get Started 

By Composting Consortium

May 08, 2024

The Composting Consortium provides key insights on developing policy that can help U.S. states meet zero waste goals.

May 8, 2024, New York, NY – In response to the rise of food waste legislation and increasing commitments to zero waste and climate action, the Composting Consortium, managed by the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, releases The Compost Policy Toolkit. This comprehensive toolkit equips policymakers, regulators, composters, brands and retailers with the insights and tools needed to navigate a complex policy landscape around compostable packaging and keep food out of landfill by diverting food scraps towards composting infrastructure. The Toolkit covers three pressing topics in policy today, including Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), labeling laws and compost end market expansion.

The Composting Consortium, a multi-year collaborative effort focused on advancing circular solutions for food-contact compostable packaging and scaling composting infrastructure, emphasizes the importance of policy in addressing organic waste and advancing circular outcomes, alongside design innovation and recovery infrastructure.

The Compost Policy Toolkit is released at a critical juncture. In the U.S. today, approximately 24% of landfill is food waste, emitting roughly 55 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions—and 58% of fugitive methane emissions—per year. Reducing organic waste is recognized as a critical path to achieving critical climate targets. Compostable packaging is also increasingly seen as a mechanism to divert food scraps away from landfill, and the U.S. composting system is slowly transitioning, with more composting facilities now accepting food scraps and some forms of food-contact compostable packaging. To support this transition, policies must help ensure that new materials––such as compostable packaging––align with available infrastructure and markets, as well as incentivize proactive infrastructure development to ensure that these materials are responsibly processed.

U.S. policy on compostable packaging and organics is at a key inflection point. As awareness grows of the environmental impact of organic waste, more landfill bans and materials recovery policies are being implemented to advance packaging and food recovery. To date, ten U.S. states and several major cities have established organics bans. Four U.S. states—California, Colorado, Maine and Oregon—have adopted EPR laws for packaging, and several others have established study bills to evaluate the opportunity for EPR. There is also increasing attention on the importance of soil health, as seen by the proliferation of healthy soils policies and programs across the U.S. As momentum around policy accelerates, there is critical need to develop robust EPR laws that include food-contact compostable packaging, clear labeling laws that help customers and composters identify compostable packaging, and policies that expand the procurement and application of compost across the country.

The Composting Consortium’s toolkit includes insights on a range of policies that are critical to supporting the composting industry in the U.S. It provides policymakers, regulators, composters, brands and retailers with actionable insights on:

  • Optimizing EPR for Composting: This brief explores the role of EPR in building composting infrastructure. It emphasizes the importance of conducting thorough needs assessments that account for composting infrastructure and certified food-contact compostable packaging.
  • Clear and Consistent Labeling for Compostable Packaging: This brief shares consumer survey findings, highlighting the need for standardized labeling on compostable packaging to avoid confusion with non-compostable packaging, maximize consumer participation in organics diversion programs and support composters in accepting food-contact compostable packaging at their facilities.
  • Policy Considerations for Supporting Compost Procurement: This brief explores strategies for promoting the purchase and use of finished compost to enhance our soils, including model procurement policies, compost application incentives and compost education programs.

The Compost Policy Toolkit is an outcome of the Composting Consortium’s in-depth research on policy, made possible by collaboration with key stakeholders across the composting industry. By outlining these key areas and offering practical recommendations, the toolkit aims to equip policymakers and regulators with the insights and best practices needed to navigate the complexities of compostable packaging and infrastructure development.

“Policy plays an important role in keeping resources in circulation whether for reuse systems or in support of robust recycling and composting infrastructure,” said Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “We believe this Policy Toolkit is a valuable resource that will help accelerate the responsible growth of composting infrastructure and unlock the environmental and economic benefits of a circular organics economy.”

The Compost Policy Toolkit is available for download here.

About the Composting Consortium

The Composting Consortium is a multi-year collaboration to pilot industry-wide solutions and build a roadmap for investment in technologies and infrastructure that enable the recovery of compostable food packaging and food scraps. The Composting Consortium is managed by Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy. Learn more about the Consortium at https://www.closedlooppartners.com/composting-consortium/

About the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners

The Center for the Circular Economy is the innovation arm of Closed Loop Partners, a firm at the forefront of building the circular economy. The Center executes research and analytics, unites organizations to tackle complex material challenges and implements systemic change that advances the circular economy. The Center for the Circular Economy’s expertise spans circularity across the full lifecycle of materials, connecting upstream innovation to downstream recovery infrastructure and end markets. Learn more about the Center for the Circular Economy at https://www.closedlooppartners.com/the-center/

 

 

Paper Cup Recycling Hits New Milestone in the U.S. With Increased Cup Acceptance at Over 40 Paper Mills

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May 07, 2024

The NextGen Consortium and Foodservice Packaging Institute join forces to help more mills accept cups and reduce waste––with more on the way!

May 7, 2024, New York, NY — Today, the NextGen Consortium, an industry collaboration managed by the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, joined the Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) in announcing a major milestone in paper cup recycling in the U.S. Multiple paper mills, from Georgia to Wisconsin, have announced that they will now accept single-use polyethylene (PE)-coated paper cups in bales of mixed paper or polycoat cartons and aseptic packaging. This brings the total number of North American mills accepting paper cups to more than 40, marking significant progress as demand for recycled fiber content grows in the U.S., amidst increasing sustainability commitments and policy tailwinds. The new mills to accept cups include Newman and Company, Inc., Philadelphia, PA; PaperWorks Industries, Wabash, IN; Resolute Forest Products, Menominee Mill, MI; Greif Mill Group in Austell, GA and Milwaukee, WI, among others listed in FPI’s end market map.

Every year, an estimated 250 billion cups are used globally—the majority of which end up in landfills after a single-use. Historically, paper cups had been deemed ‘unrecyclable’ because of their plastic lining, resulting in low recovery rates and valuable materials ending up in landfill. In recent years, as mills compete for diminishing supplies of newspapers and office paper in the recycling system, there has been growing interest in opportunities to recover material categories that contain high-quality fiber, such as paper cups. Many mills––especially new and retrofitted builds––have undertaken repulpability studies to determine whether they can successfully recover the valuable fiber from coated paper packaging, such as fiber cups, for use in recycled fiber products. Positive outcomes of the studies have led to higher acceptance of fiber cups at mills. According to FPI, the dozens of paper mills that now accept paper cups in mixed paper bales represent more than 75 percent of U.S. mixed paper processing demand.

By accepting recovered paper materials, including cups, and reprocessing them into new products, mills play a pivotal role in advancing the larger paper cup recovery process. As more mills effectively recover fiber from paper cups, cup recycling is incentivized further upstream in materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and communities looking to improve their waste diversion efforts. While only 11 percent of communities in the U.S. officially accept cups in their residential recycling programs today, the increasing number of mills that accept cups signals a greater opportunity to grow cup recycling efforts.

“Alongside advancing reuse and material innovation, strengthening paper cup recovery and recycling is critical to keeping cups from going to waste in landfills,” said Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “Paper mills play a critical role in strengthening end markets for cups. By pulling materials through the system, mills accepting cups can drive increased cup processing in recycling facilities and cup collection in communities. We are thrilled to see cup recovery reach this important milestone in the United States, moving us closer to a waste-free future.”

For several years, the NextGen Consortium and Foodservice Packaging Institute have collaborated to strengthen existing materials recovery and recycling infrastructure to recapture more paper cups. Both organizations have released critical reports and research to guide paper cup recovery and recycling, such as NextGen’s report Closing the Loop on Cups and FPI’s White Paper on the The State of Paper Cup Recycling. While the challenges are significant, collaboration among various stakeholders involved in paper cup recovery can help address its scale and complexity.

“We are thrilled to work with a growing set of mills in their efforts to recover poly-coated paper cups,” says Natha Dempsey, President of FPI. “Reliable and responsible end markets for cups catalyze new opportunities for community partnerships, especially in regions that previously didn’t have the capability to recycle them.”

“The mix of recovered paper we receive has changed dramatically over the last several years, now including much more plastic that we have to separate in the repulping process. Paper cups contain good fiber and are no more difficult to recycle than many of the other prominent packaging categories we see today. We look forward to the value it will bring to our outputs at our mills in Austell, GA and Milwaukee, WI,” said Jeff Hilkert, VP Paperboard Sales of Greif Mill Group.”

In addition to working with the mills that are now accepting cups, the NextGen Consortium and FPI continue to work with several other interested mills to run studies that can help determine the viability of paper cups in their system. Furthermore, they are also working with groups up and down the value chain––including brands, MRFs and communities––to ensure more cups can be recycled, especially where viable and robust end markets exist. This collaborative work is a key step forward in increasing the supply of recycled content to meet growing demand, and reducing the amount of valuable materials being sent to landfill.

About the NextGen Consortium
The NextGen Consortium is a multi-year consortium that addresses single-use food packaging waste by advancing the design, commercialization and recovery of food packaging alternatives. The NextGen Consortium is managed by Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy. Starbucks and McDonald’s are the founding partners of the Consortium, with The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo as sector lead partners. JDE Peet’s, Wendy’s and Yum! Brands are supporting partners. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is the environmental advisory partner. Learn more at www.nextgenconsortium.com.

About the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners

The Center for the Circular Economy is the innovation arm of Closed Loop Partners, a firm at the forefront of building the circular economy. The Center executes research and analytics, unites organizations to tackle complex material challenges and implements systemic change that advances the circular economy. The Center for the Circular Economy’s expertise spans circularity across the full lifecycle of materials, connecting upstream innovation to downstream recovery infrastructure and end markets. Learn more about the Center for the Circular Economy at closedlooppartners.com/the-center/ 

About the Foodservice Packaging Institute
Founded in 1933, the Foodservice Packaging Institute is the trade association for the foodservice packaging industry in North America. FPI promotes the value and benefits of foodservice packaging and plays an active role in advancing the recovery of FSP to support the circular economy. The association serves as the industry’s leading authority to educate and influence stakeholders. Members include raw material and machinery suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and purchasers of foodservice packaging. For more information, visit www.FPI.org.

Closed Loop Partners Provides Financing to Olyns, a Technology Startup Advancing Collection of Food-Grade Recycled Packaging

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April 16, 2024

The catalytic loan will help scale production of Olyns’ reverse vending machines, increasing consumer access to recycling and advancing circular supply chains for consumer packaging.

April 17, 2024, New York, NY –– Circular economy-focused investment firm Closed Loop Partners announces the closing of a catalytic loan to Olyns, a technology and media company that engineered a new artificial intelligence (AI)-driven solution to improve the collection, sortation and recycling of consumer packaging. The financing from Closed Loop Partners’ private credit arm, the Closed Loop Infrastructure Group, will support the manufacturing of Olyns’ Cubes––AI-powered reverse vending machines that collect and sort packaging materials, including food-grade plastic, glass and aluminum––and accelerate the expansion of Olyns’ consumer recycling infrastructure across the U.S.

Founded in 2019 in Silicon Valley, Olyns is increasing access to consumer recycling with an innovative technology solution that makes material collection efficient and scalable through a self-sustaining business model. Olyns’ AI-powered Cubes are a new take on reverse vending machines, where people deposit eligible beverage containers and receive cash deposits back electronically. Not only do Olyns’ Cubes provide rewards to incentivize participation and include a screen that can display media, but their machines also leverage AI, enabling them to rapidly learn to recognize new deposited products sold by brands at retailers across the country, as well as track deposit rates by product and brand. This is especially relevant amidst growing policy around materials recovery, such as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Olyns currently partners with top retailers and consumer goods brands to locate their Cubes in high traffic locations such as major supermarkets, big box stores, pharmacies and gas stations, ensuring recycling is convenient and advertisements are effective. By operating as both a consumer recycling network and digital out-of-home media network, Olyns is changing the economics of recycling.

Source: Olyns

Olyns not only has the opportunity to collect millions of containers per year, but also to improve material sortation to maintain the quality of the recycled materials. By using AI to identify and sort containers at the point of deposit into separate bins, Olyns minimizes the co-mingling and contamination common to traditional recycling. This results in industry-leading material recovery rates and bale quality, ensuring that more containers deposited can be made into new containers. The vast majority of the rPET collected in Olyns’ Cubes is food-grade and can be used as material for recycled bottles.

“The material quality of aluminum, PET and glass beverage containers collected by the Olyns reverse vending machines is some of the highest quality material Ming’s facilities receive from our customers,” said Jeff Donlevy, General Manager of Ming’s Recycling Corp, a current processor of Olyns CRV material. “Mixed plastic material collected through co-mingled programs often can’t achieve the same quality standards, and significant amounts end up in landfill. Olyns’ technology minimizes co-mingling, and consistently achieves the food-grade quality material that plastic reclaimers want.”

As the Olyns network scales, it helps unlock a new supply of recyclable post-consumer plastic and aluminum, helping corporations meet their sustainable packaging goals and reducing their dependence on virgin plastic from non-renewable sources. As demand for food-grade rPET is anticipated to outpace supply by about three times by 2030, scaling solutions that can bolster supply of high-quality recycled content is critical. By expanding recycling access to more locations, Olyns’ Cube network collects and processes a growing portion of the estimated 4.6 billion pounds of unrecycled PET that would otherwise end up in landfill every year, closing the loop on food-grade PET and reducing carbon emissions that would result from the production of virgin plastic.

“Greater consumer access to recycling, more efficient material sortation and economically sound recycling systems are critical to recovering high-quality materials,” says Philip Stanger, Co-Founder and CEO of Olyns. “Since we installed our first Cube in California in 2020, user growth has been phenomenal, proving that when people have easy access to recycling, impact is magnified. While we started with collecting PET plastic, aluminum and glass beverage containers, we are looking to build our AI capacity to potentially expand collection for hard-to-recycle materials, such as films and flexibles. Closed Loop Partners’ financing will help us build the circular economy infrastructure that helps make recycling possible for more materials, and accessible to more communities.”

The Closed Loop Infrastructure Group has been providing flexible loans to projects that build out circular economy infrastructure and innovation in the United States for nearly 10 years. This includes robust recycling infrastructure equipment, as well as rapidly growing companies poised to scale circular solutions. The loan to Olyns underscores the potential of new innovative solutions and creates a significant opportunity to increase material collection in underserved areas, including states without deposit return schemes such as bottle bills. By producing a source-separated, clean stream of materials, Olyns also helps bolster the market for high-quality recyclables, looping more material back into the same or similar products.

“We see immense opportunity to finance rapidly growing technology innovations, alongside large-scale recycling infrastructure, to improve materials sortation and accelerate the circular economy in the U.S. Expanding the types of financing available in the market can help meet the distinct needs of innovators developing new circular solutions. Catalytic capital is a powerful tool, providing the foundation needed to accelerate further growth,” says Jennifer Louie, Managing Director and Head of the Closed Loop Infrastructure Group at Closed Loop Partners. “Closed Loop Partners’ Infrastructure Group is proud to finance scalable and replicable solutions and provide access to the Closed Loop Partners ecosystem to support their growth. We are thrilled to partner with Olyns, as they disrupt material collection and advance more circular supply chains for valuable packaging materials.”

Moving forward, Olyns looks to further scale its solution, partnering with key brands to expand to new locations and increase collection and recovery of more materials, reducing reliance on natural resource extraction and driving forward a circular economy.

If you are interested in learning more about Olyns, visit here. If you are interested in applying for funding from the Closed Loop Infrastructure Group, learn more about Closed Loop Partners’ catalytic capital strategy here.

About Olyns

Olyns innovates at the nexus of retail media and recycling, connecting people to recycling and brands to customers. Founded in 2019 in Silicon Valley, Olyns’ pioneering ecosystem includes the Cube, an AI-powered reverse vending machine that provides self-serve beverage container recycling to consumers and includes a 55-inch screen to display advertising. Olyns partners with top retailers and consumer goods brands to locate Cubes in high traffic locations such as major supermarkets, big box stores, pharmacies, and gas stations, ensuring recycling is convenient and advertisements are effective. By operating as both a consumer recycling network and digital out-of-home media network, Olyns is changing the economics of recycling. With its use of artificial intelligence (AI) to identify and sort containers at point of deposit, Olyns minimizes the co-mingling and contamination common to traditional recycling and unlocks a valuable new supply of food-grade recycled plastic.

Olyns is on a mission to inspire people to recycle, stop the depletion of the earth’s resources, and accelerate the shift to a circular packaging economy. Learn more at www.olyns.com

About Closed Loop Partners

Closed Loop Partners is at the forefront of building the circular economy. The company is comprised of three key business segments: its investment arm, Closed Loop Capital Management, managing venture capital, buyout private equity and catalytic private credit investment strategies; its innovation center, the Center for the Circular Economy; and its operating group, Closed Loop Builders.

The firm’s catalytic private credit arm, the Closed Loop Infrastructure Group, provides a mix of flexible financing solutions to support a range of circular economy projects, companies, infrastructure and enabling technologies. The Infrastructure Group deploys catalytic capital, which seeks to accelerate and de-risk the development of high-impact projects and companies. Areas of strategic investment include: providing below-market rate loans to finance circular infrastructure, providing catalytic financing to increase recovery of hard-to-recycle plastics and PET bottles, and financing and deploying small-scale, modular materials recovery facilities (MRFs) to increase recycling in communities with no or limited access to recycling.

Closed Loop Partners is based in New York City and is a registered B Corp. Learn more at closedlooppartners.com.

 

This publication is for informational purposes only, and nothing contained herein constitutes an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any interest in any investment vehicle managed by Closed Loop Partners or any company in which Closed Loop Partners or its affiliates have invested. An offer or solicitation will be made only through a final private placement memorandum, subscription agreement and other related documents with respect to a particular investment opportunity and will be subject to the terms and conditions contained in such documents, including the qualifications necessary to become an investor. Information provided reflects Closed Loop Partners’ views as of a particular time and are subject to change without notice. You should obtain relevant and specific professional advice before making any investment decision.

 

Does Compostable Packaging Actually Break Down? Composting Consortium Reveals Groundbreaking Findings from Largest Field Test in North America 

By Composting Consortium

Data in new report reveals that certified food-contact compostable packaging breaks down successfully at commercial composting facilities that meet reasonable operating parameters.

Read the full report

NEW YORKApril 16, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Today, the Composting Consortium, an industry collaboration led by the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, released a groundbreaking report that fills a critical data gap for the U.S. composting industry: how well does certified, food-contact compostable packaging actually break down in real-world composting facilities? The report, Breaking It Down: The Realities of Compostable Packaging Disintegration in Composting Systems, shares findings from an 18-month study––the largest known field test of certified, food-contact compostable packaging conducted in North America––revealing the realities of compostable plastic and fiber disintegration in diverse in-field composting conditions.

In total, the study tested over 23,000 units of certified food-contact compostable packaging within large-scale industrial composting environments. This encompassed 31 types of fiber packaging & products and compostable plastic packaging & products––such as PLA and PHA––across 10 diverse composting facilities across the U.S.

The data is released at a critical time, as compostable packaging grows as an alternative to conventional plastics amidst an urgent waste crisis. Roughly one-third of the world’s food is wasted each year––a loss estimated at $230 billion. Nearly 60% of the uncontrolled methane emissions from municipal landfills are caused by discarded food, highlighting its significant impact on the environment. To address the urgent food waste and climate challenge, demand for organics circularity is rising, and with it, the volume of food-contact compostable packaging––a market poised to grow 16% annually in the U.S. until 2032, 4x faster than traditional plastic packaging. Today, the U.S. composting industry is in an early stage of transformation to accept and process more food waste; approximately 70% of the composters who process food also accept and process some format of food-contact compostable packaging, with the understanding that accepting these materials helps bring in more food waste to their facilities.

For compostable packaging to reach its full potential as a circular packaging solution, disintegration at end-of-life is critical, in tandem with consistent labeling and design that differentiates compostable and non-compostable packaging further upstream, as well as policies that incentivize robust composting infrastructure to process these materials. In this new study, the Composting Consortium focuses on how compostable packaging breaks down. Previously, scant information was publicly available on the disintegration of compostable packaging, particularly on the compost environments in which they disintegrate.

This groundbreaking study found that overall, compostable packaging breaks down successfully at composting facilities that meet reasonable operational parameters (e.g., compost pile temperatures, moisture, oxygen, pH, etc., defined in The Composting Handbook). While the Consortium’s study did not assess disintegration with the intention to “pass” or “fail” any specific compostable packaging or product, notably, the average compostable plastic and fiber packaging in-field performance in this study met disintegration thresholds used by industry groups:

  • Compostable plastic packaging and products broke down successfully across five composting methods, and all 10 facilities’ varying processing timeframes and operating conditions, achieving 98% disintegration on average by surface area, which exceeds industry thresholds to achieve a 90% or higher disintegration.
  • Compostable fiber packaging and products achieved 83% disintegration on average by surface area, meeting industry thresholds to achieve an 80% or higher disintegration. Findings showed that certain operating conditions, like turning, agitation and consistent moisture levels above 50%, support increased disintegration of fiber packaging and products.

The findings point to the viability of certified food-contact compostable packaging as an alternative packaging solution to single-use conventional plastic packaging. It also highlights the importance of ensuring that these materials align with available recovery infrastructure, and the importance of expanding robust recovery pathways to divert compostable packaging, and the food scraps they carry, from landfill––that is at the core of the Composting Consortium’s mission.

The Composting Consortium, in collaboration with its brand and industry partners, the US Composting Council, the Compost Research and Education Foundation and other groups, will leverage these findings to help inform policymaking around compostable packaging, update best management practices for composting facilities and shape a field test standard for evaluating compostable packaging disintegration at composting facilities. Data from this study will be donated to the Compostable Field Testing Program (CFTP), which will later launch an open-source database on the disintegration of compostable packaging. Additionally, ASTM International is currently developing an in-field test method for assessing disintegration of compostable items at composting facilities, and the data from this study will be used to inform the draft field testing method. As the Consortium moves into its next phase of work, the results of this study will shape its engagement and education efforts with composters, municipalities, regulators, brands and packaging manufacturers.

“Field testing for disintegration has been ongoing for three decades, and the Composting Consortium’s work across the value chain has significantly advanced insights for the industry,” says Diane Hazard, Executive Director of the Compost Research and Education Foundation. “The collaborative approach and open-source data from this project both advances field testing methods and equips compost manufacturers and brands with the knowledge to better understand the variability of disintegration across different systems, all major steps towards successfully processing compostable packaging.”

“Brands and manufacturers must prioritize material selection and design and labeling for compostable packaging to achieve optimal performance in composting environments, which can then incentivize composters to accept food-contact compostable packaging materials at their facilities,” says Frank Franciosi, Executive Director of the US Composting Council, an industry partner of the Composting Consortium. “As feedstock for composters becomes diversified and more complex, it’s important for all entities within the supply chain to support consumer education on source separation of organics and reevaluate best management practices to support those composters who choose to accept compostable packaging, and this study is another tool for our industry to be able to start that process.”

“Alongside design and reduction as well as reuse and recycling, composting is an important solution for waste mitigation. Through this research, the Composting Consortium sheds light on what is needed for compostable packaging to have the greatest positive impact. Informed by this robust data, we can together ensure the responsible growth of compostable packaging and composting infrastructure, and drive toward circular outcomes, including increased diversion of food scraps and compostable packaging from landfills,” says Kate Daly, Managing Director and Head of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners.

The study brought together the Consortium’s corporate brand partners, including PepsiCo, the NextGen Consortium, Colgate-Palmolive, Community Impact at Danaher, Eastman, The Kraft Heinz Company, Mars, Incorporated and Target Corporation; technical partners including the US Composting Council, Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), the Compostable Field Testing Program (CFTP) and the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI); and a cohort of compost partners including Atlas Organics, Napa Recycling & Waste Services, Specialized Environmental Technologies, Windham Solid Waste Management, Black Earth Compost, Ag Choice Organics Recycling, Happy Trash Can Compost, Veteran Compost and Dayton Foodbank. Advisory partners include 5 Gyres, Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI), ReFED, the Compost Research and Education Foundation (CREF), the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), Compost Manufacturing Alliance (CMA), Eco-Cycle, University College London (UCL), Western Michigan University (WMU), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

About the Composting Consortium

The Composting Consortium is a multi-year collaboration to pilot industry-wide solutions and build a roadmap for investment in technologies and infrastructure that enable the recovery of compostable food packaging and food scraps. The Composting Consortium is managed by Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy. Learn more about the Consortium at closedlooppartners.com/composting-consortium/

About the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners

The Center for the Circular Economy is the innovation arm of Closed Loop Partners, a firm at the forefront of building the circular economy. The Center executes research and analytics, unites organizations to tackle complex material challenges and implements systemic change that advances the circular economy. The Center for the Circular Economy’s expertise spans circularity across the full lifecycle of materials, connecting upstream innovation to downstream recovery infrastructure and end markets. Learn more about the Center for the Circular Economy at closedlooppartners.com/the-center/

First-of-Its-Kind Study by the Composting Consortium Analyzes Contamination Rates Across U.S. Composting Facilities

By

February 28, 2024

Commonly held assumptions about contamination were put to the test, revealing new data on the realities of contamination at composting facilities.

Read the full report

February 28, 2024, New York, NY — Today, the Composting Consortium, an industry collaboration led by the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, released an unprecedented report on compost contamination, Don’t Spoil the Soil: The Challenge of Contamination at Composting Sites. The report reveals first-of-its-kind data on the amount of contamination at U.S. composting facilities, and the significant cost to manage it. Working with composters across the U.S., the Consortium’s in-field study quantifies contamination rates in feedstock and finished compost, highlighting a need for policy, innovation and packaging design to help composters improve contamination mitigation and strengthen organics recovery processes.

The report is released at a critical time for the composting industry, as pressure increases around the growing food waste crisis in the U.S. Today, nearly 40% of food is wasted and sent to landfill in the U.S.––at a loss of $430 billion––and only about 4% of all post-consumer food waste generated by Americans is sent to composters. Organics collection and infrastructure is one key solution to the crisis. To meet growing demand, the U.S. composting industry is shifting. While most composting facilities in the U.S. still only process yard trimmings, curbside organics collection has surged by 49% since 2021. Composter feedstock acceptance policies are also slowly shifting to match demand, with approximately 145 full-scale compost facilities in the U.S. now accepting food waste and some forms of food-contact compostable packaging—that packaging can be a key vessel for diverting food waste to compost, if recovered at composting facilities.

There is eagerness among compost manufacturers to be a part of the food waste solution, but concerns about contamination risks in the organics stream continue to be the one of biggest barriers to greater acceptance of food waste and food-contact compostable packaging. Concerns are increasing amidst the growing volume of compostable packaging in the U.S., largely due to look-alike, non-compostable packaging inadvertently entering the composting stream due to unclear labeling and confusion among consumers. This creates operational and financial challenges for haulers and composters, hindering further acceptance of food waste across the country.

Before the Composting Consortium released this report, there was little to no publicly available data on the amount and types of contamination in feedstock or finished compost products, or the time and money spent by composters to manage contamination at their facilities. To support the composting industry in its transition to accept food waste and food-contact compostable packaging, the Composting Consortium set out to address this data gap by conducting a first-of-its-kind study with 10 leading composters of varying sizes across the continental U.S., capturing a geographically and operationally diverse dataset on contamination volumes and decontamination practices.

The study measures and characterizes contamination across different points of the composters’ processes––and analyzes the financial cost to composters to handle contamination. The study examines five commonly held assumptions about contamination and compostable packaging, and breaks down in-field realities in a data-backed and easy-to-follow format. Key findings include:

  • Conventional plastic is the most common contaminant received by composters, making up an average of 85% of the contamination that composters receive, by volume;
  • Despite diligent efforts to combat contamination, conventional plastic can persist in the finished compost; 4 out of 10 composters in the study had trace amounts of conventional flexible plastic in their finished compost;
  • Contamination has a significant impact on the bottom line; on average, 21% of composter operating costs are spent on contamination removal;
  • Most composters had contamination, irrespective of whether or not they accept compostable packaging; several factors contribute to the levels of contamination that a facility receives;
  • Eight out of nine composters who accept compostable products in the study had no detectable amounts of compostable packaging in their finished compost.

 

The data confirms the pervasiveness of plastic contamination, and the need to further mitigate this challenge, both upstream and downstream in the composting value chain. It also highlights that more consistent and standardized compostable packaging design and labeling is needed to ensure that certified, food-contact packaging is properly sorted and recovered at end of life. In the same vein, non-compostable packaging should be distinct in its design and labeling to reduce the risk of conventional plastic packaging making its way into the organics stream. Composters must be supported and incentivized to accept food and certified food-contact compostable packaging, to ensure these materials drive value and circular outcomes to the composting industry.

“Addressing contamination is critical to paving the way for broader organics recovery as a key solution to the food waste crisis in the U.S.,” says Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “The Composting Consortium’s findings shed light on the significant opportunities––and challenging realities––of composting in the U.S. today. This study lays the groundwork for future research and investment to scale end-of-life solutions for food and food-contact compostable packaging to drive circular outcomes.”

This study is an important snapshot of a pervasive challenge that affects the compost industry. This work represents the Composting Consortium’s continued efforts to break siloes and bring together the key stakeholders––upstream, midstream and downstream––to remove barriers and advance a circular economy for organics and compostable packaging. Addressing contamination requires enhancing transparency, intensifying educational efforts and championing innovation. Additional research and collaboration across the entire composting and compostable packaging ecosystem can help pave the way for a circular future, turning food waste into a valuable resource and relieving composters from the burden of contamination.

 

About the Composting Consortium

The Composting Consortium is a multi-year collaboration to pilot industry-wide solutions and build a roadmap for investment in technologies and infrastructure that enable the recovery of compostable food packaging and food scraps. The Composting Consortium is managed by Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy. PepsiCo and the NextGen Consortium are founding partners of the Consortium. Colgate-Palmolive; Community Impact at Danaher; Eastman; The Kraft Heinz Company; Mars, Incorporated; and Target Corporation joined as supporting partners, and the Biodegradable Products Institute, the US Composting Council and the U.S. Plastics Pact joined as industry partners. Our compost partners for the Contamination Pilot include Ag Choice, Atlas Organics, Black Earth Compost, Dirt Hugger, The Food Bank at Dayton, Happy Trash Can Compost, Napa Recycling, Specialized Environmental Technologies (SET), Veteran Compost, and Windham Solid Waste Management District. Our advisory partners include 5 Gyres, Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI), ReFED, Compost Research and Education Foundation (CREF), the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), Compost Manufacturers Alliance (CMA), Eco-Cycle, University College London (UCL), Western Michigan University (WMU), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Learn more about the Consortium at closedlooppartners.com/composting-consortium/

About the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners

The Center for the Circular Economy (‘the Center’) is the innovation arm of Closed Loop Partners, a leading circular economy-focused investment firm in the U.S. The Center executes research and analytics, unites organizations to tackle complex material challenges and implement systemic change that advances the circular economy. The Center for the Circular Economy’s expertise spans circularity across the full lifecycle of materials, connecting upstream innovation to downstream recovery infrastructure and end markets.

 

Closed Loop Partners and the U.S. Plastics Pact Release First-of-Its-Kind Report on Insights from Customers Engaging with Reusable Packaging Systems in the U.S. 

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January 08, 2024

Key findings support the development of more effective reuse systems that meet customer needs and increase return rates of reusable packaging

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NEW YORK – January 9, 2024 – Today, Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy (“the Center”), in collaboration with the U.S. Plastics Pact, published a first-of-its-kind report, Unpacking Customer Perspectives on Reusable Packaging, sharing new insights on customer behavior toward reuse in the U.S. The report seeks to understand customer attitudes, preferences and behaviors around reusable and refillable packaging solutions to help companies, cities and other key stakeholders navigate the current reuse landscape. To effectively address the global plastics waste challenge, we need widespread adoption of reuse systems. Understanding customer preferences is crucial for implementing successful solutions.

Since 2018, the Center for the Circular Economy has been testing diverse reusable packaging solutions in retail stores and restaurants. The Center’s Reuse Insights Lab conducts qualitative and quantitative research and data analytics through in-market testing, focus groups and customer interviews, to identify how to design and build the architecture for a reuse system that brings the circular economy to the forefront in our everyday life. In 2023, the Center’s Reuse Insights Lab collaborated with the U.S. Plastics Pact, engaging the customer bases of 16 innovators participating in the U.S. Plastics Pact’s Reuse Catalyst Program. Based on surveys, interviews and an analysis of hundreds of customers using reusable packaging across the U.S., our methodology focused on early adopter behavior. Rather than asking customers what they would do, we asked them what they already do. This allowed us to avoid the “intention-action gap” that can occur when relying solely on sentiment instead of in-market behavior.

The report shares five key insights distilled from these real-world customer experiences:

  1. Ongoing education and clear communication are vital to familiarize customers with reuse logistics and enable adoption on a larger scale;
  2. Technology can simplify reuse tracking—particularly on the backend—but too many tech hurdles on the frontend can overwhelm customers;
  3. Thoughtful design choices that balance utility, sustainability and appeal are key for reuse systems to achieve their intended impact;
  4. Choice and availability of reuse options help customers feel empowered to participate; and
  5. Reuse solutions that meet customers where they are rather than demanding perfection are most likely to support long-term habit formation.

 

As the Center works to build bridges for reuse systems, we recognize that achieving high return rates for reusable packaging is key to successful adoption. Without high returns, reuse models will struggle to achieve their intended environmental impact. However, with customers at various stages in their reuse journey, building reuse habits takes time. As brands and retailers increasingly look to reuse models as a core sustainability strategy, this timely report provides data-driven guidance on how to successfully scale reusable packaging by understanding customer perspectives and meeting customer needs.

Reuse systems are an essential part of moving away from a linear “take-make-waste” economy towards a system focused on resource circulation. However, to scale reuse sustainably and mitigate unintended consequences of low return rates, solutions must seamlessly integrate into consumer lifestyles and meet customer needs. By reporting on direct feedback from early adopter reusable packaging users, the report provides valuable intelligence on how to optimize participation by assessing real-world experiences, practical applications and perspectives. The insights aim to help both public and private institutions make reuse an accessible, everyday reality.

Kate Daly, Managing Director of Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy notes that, “We’ve reached a crucial moment to make reusable packaging a normal part of everyday life. The research in this report charts a course toward transforming reuse by starting from the customer’s point of view—understanding and overcoming the obstacles people face that stop them from developing a habit of reusing.”

Similarly, Emily Tipaldo, Executive Director of the U.S. Plastics Pact, underscores that, “If businesses and organizations can collaborate to deliver reusable options that truly fit into customers’ lifestyles, reuse can shift from occasional to habitual.”

In the coming year, Closed Loop Partners will release additional insights, building upon this research, as part of an ongoing initiative to accelerate the transition to scalable and durable reusable packaging systems across the U.S. By translating the report’s insights into practical solutions focused on optimizing convenience and value for customers, businesses, advocates and municipalities can propel a culture shift in which reusable packaging models can become the everyday norm. 

About the Center for the Circular Economy 

The Center for the Circular Economy (‘the Center’) is the innovation arm of Closed Loop Partners, a leading circular economy-focused investment firm in the U.S. The Center executes research and analytics, unites organizations to tackle complex material challenges and implement systemic change that advances the circular economy. The Center for the Circular Economy’s expertise spans circularity across the full lifecycle of materials, connecting upstream innovation to downstream recovery infrastructure and end markets.

The Center’s Circular Insights Lab conducts quantitative and qualitative research and data analytics through in-market pilots, focus groups, iterative testing and consumer interviews, identifying circular trends, challenges and opportunities across multiple sectors and themes, including reuse.

 

About the U.S. Plastics Pact

The U.S. Plastics Pact is a solutions-driven consortium, launched as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact network. The U.S. Plastics Pact connects diverse public-private stakeholders across the plastics value chain to rethink the way we design, use and reuse plastics, to create a path forward to realize a circular economy for plastic in the United States.

In line with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s vision of a circular economy for plastics, which unites more than 850+ organizations, the U.S. Plastics Pact brings together businesses, not-for-profit organizations, research institutions, government agencies and other stakeholders to work toward scalable solutions tailored to the unique needs and challenges within the U.S. landscape, through vital knowledge sharing and coordinated action.

Circular Services Acquires Midwest Fiber Recycling, Expanding Services for Communities in the U.S.

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December 18, 2023

The acquisition of a leading Midwest recycling company expands Circular Services’ holistic materials management services to support more communities and companies across the U.S.
 

December 18, 2023, New York, NY – Circular Services, a leading developer and operator of circular economy infrastructure in the U.S., announced its acquisition of Midwest Fiber Recycling, growing the portfolio of materials recovery facilities under Circular Services’ recycling arm, Balcones Recycling. This marks Circular Services’ expansion into the Midwest of the U.S., to support existing recycling infrastructure and services in the region and increase the recovery of valuable materials into domestic supply chains.

Midwest Fiber began in 1990 when founders Ron and Linda Shumaker purchased the Decatur Recycle Paper Company. Since then, with sons Mike and Todd Shumaker, they have grown the company into one of the largest recycling operations in the Midwest, with facilities in Decatur, Normal, Urbana and Peroria, IL and Terre Haute, IN. Today, Midwest Fiber services residential single-stream and commercial properties via a dedicated collection fleet. In addition, Midwest Fiber provides document destruction and recycling services and has a recycled material brokerage arm that helps generators maximize value by marketing directly to end-users. Following the acquisition, Midwest Fiber’s management team will continue to run the company, partnering with the Circular Services team and leveraging its broader platform to continue its growth trajectory.

“Todd and I waited to find the right partner,” said Mike Shumaker, CEO of Midwest Fiber Recycling. “The singular focus of Circular Services and Balcones Recycling on advancing robust circular materials management, as well as their longstanding experience operating recycling infrastructure, made them a great fit. We look forward to working alongside their team, and leading our family business into the next chapter.”

The acquisition is taking place at a critical time as more cities across the U.S. prioritize zero-waste goals, due to the combined urgency of climate risks and increasing landfill costs. Similarly, many leading corporations in the U.S. are committing to keep more materials in circulation and incorporate more recycled content in their packaging, as part of their larger sustainability and net zero goals. According to the Circularity Gap Reporting Initiative, 70% of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are related to material handling and use, making circular economy infrastructure a critical part of the solution to the climate crisis. Expanding access to recycling and reuse services will enable cities and businesses to avoid the costs and emissions of landfilling products and packaging and achieve their sustainability goals.

Circular Services operates several companies to offer holistic circular materials management services, helping municipalities and businesses close the loop on valuable materials, including paper, metal, glass, plastics, organics, textiles and electronics. Among these companies is Balcones Recycling, Circular Services’ recycling company. Prior to this acquisiton, Balcones Recycling was already one of the largest independent recycling companies in the country, handling more than 1 million tons of recyclables each year through its operations in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Arizona and Arkansas. Following this acquisition, Balcones Recycling will operate 18 materials recovery facilities across the U.S., including five from Midwest Fiber.

“The Shumakers have built and led a great company with an excellent reputation as they served their surrounding communities for over 30 years,” said Tom Outerbridge, CEO of Balcones Recycling. “We are proud to join forces with Mike, Todd and their management team and leverage our collective expertise and growing portfolio of facilities to offer custom, effective recycling solutions to more municipalities, counties and small-to-large businesses.”

“We are excited to expand Circular Services and have Midwest Fiber Recycling be a part of our larger portfolio of infrastructure and services keeping materials in circulation—from paper, to plastic, organics, electronics, textiles and more,” said Amy Wagner, CFO & EVP of Business Development & Operations, Circular Services. “We look forward to expanding our services to the Midwest region of the U.S., and into commercial and brokerage services, providing more communities and companies with the infrastructure needed to reduce dependence on extraction and landfill, and advance a circular economy.”

About Balcones Recycling
Balcones Recycling is a Circular Services company. As a pure-play recycling company, Balcones is on a mission to recover all recyclables from the waste stream. As such, we design custom recycling programs focused on keeping resources away from landfills. We are known for building state-of-the-art facilities and fostering great partnerships with small-to-large businesses, counties and municipalities. We don’t stop at processing – we are active in key industry initiatives to increase the circularity of our materials and economy. We prioritize education and outreach initiatives to improve recycling participation. We love what we do and look forward to partnering with you to build a circular economy, one bale at a time. Learn more about Balcones Recycling at https://www.balconesrecycling.com/about/

About Circular Services
Circular Services is the operating group of Closed Loop Partners, a leading investment firm focused on advancing the circular economy. Circular Services provides holistic, circular materials management to close the loop on valuable materials for municipalities and businesses throughout the United States. Employing innovative technology within reuse, recycling, remanufacturing and re-commerce solutions, Circular Services improves regional economic and environmental outcomes by building resilient systems to keep food & organics, textiles, electronics, packaging and more, in circulation and out of landfill or the natural environment. For more information, please visit https://www.closedlooppartners.com/circular-services/

 

Closed Loop Partners Invests in Circular Manufacturing Company, Minus Works, Accelerating Sustainable Solutions for Cold Chain 

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December 06, 2023

The loan from Closed Loop Partners’ Infrastructure Group will help the company scale production of sustainable gel packs, reducing waste in the shipping of perishables

December 6, 2023, New York, NY –– Circular economy-focused investment firm Closed Loop Partners announces the closing of its loan to Minus Works, a manufacturing and technology company developing circular solutions for the cold chain. Minus Works builds products to reduce waste in the shipping of perishable products, primarily through sustainable gel packs and freezing process innovations. Financing was deployed through Closed Loop Partners’ catalytic private credit arm, the Closed Loop Infrastructure Group, to support the company’s expansion to meet growing demand for environmentally friendly alternatives to single-use plastic encased gel packs, and create a new end market for recycled paper.

Founded in 2020 and based in Farmingdale, New York, Minus Works is disrupting the cold chain with their BRiQ smarter coolant, a sustainable, high-performance gel pack and freezing process for the shipping of perishables, which aims to reduce single-use plastic waste and avoid greenhouse gas emissions in the supply chain. Made with recycled content paper, as well as a compostable gel interior, BRiQ serves as a non-toxic, circular alternative to single-use plastic wrapped gel packs. With freezing co-located at the gel manufacturing site, Minus Works also reduces required production space by 80%, and reduces costs and emissions associated with transportation.

Today’s standard gel packs are the biggest source of waste in the last mile cold chain, with the vast majority discarded into landfill, or contaminating the recycling stream. Most gel packs are made with single-use, non-curbside recyclable low-density polyethylene (LDPE), and use a petroleum derivative for the gel. Demand for less wasteful alternatives continues to increase as industries that are dependent on the cold chain––such as meal kit delivery services––continue to grow, and perishable packaging materials are expected to shift amidst upcoming Extended Producer Responsibility and “Truth in Labeling” regulations.

The Closed Loop Infrastructure Group has been providing flexible loans to projects that build out circular economy infrastructure and innovation in the United States for nearly 10 years. The loan to Minus Works builds on previous investments in circular economy infrastructure and technologies, including investments in the packaging manufacturing space, such as TemperPack, a leading developer and manufacturer of sustainable packaging materials. The Closed Loop Infrastructure Group aims to advance projects and solutions that keep valuable recyclable materials in circulation for longer, upgrade recycling infrastructure and strengthen end markets for recyclable material.

“Minus Works is accelerating circularity for an industry that has remained largely unchanged for half a century. We are excited about their growth potential, as well as the role that we expect the company to play as a new end market for recycled fiber markets, while reducing waste, emissions and fresh water use in the cold chain industry,” says Jennifer Louie, Managing Director and Head of the Closed Loop Infrastructure Group at Closed Loop Partners. “Closed Loop Partners’ Infrastructure Group is thrilled to partner with Minus Works and to have them as a portfolio company. The company’s values mirror that of other mission-aligned organizations that we have invested in who are committed to advancing innovations and infrastructure to support a circular economy.”

“We at Minus Works see immense opportunity for building new products and introducing new processes that will disrupt the resource-intensive cold chain industry and create more circular supply chains,” says Ben Shore, Founder and CEO of Minus Works. “Since our founding, we have been working on sustainable innovations and have seen demand grow across industries, from the perishable food and meal kit delivery space to life sciences. Our partnership with Closed Loop Partners is a milestone in our continued growth. We look forward to working alongside experts in the circular economy who share our vision for less waste and a positive future for the planet.”

If you are interested in applying for funding from the Closed Loop Infrastructure Group, learn more about Closed Loop Partners’ catalytic capital strategy here.

About Minus Works
Minus Works is an American manufacturing and technology company focused on bringing innovative products to the cold chain industry, including sustainable, high-performance coolant for the shipping of perishables. Learn more about Minus Works here https://minusworks.com/

About Closed Loop Partners
Closed Loop Partners is a leading investment firm advancing the circular economy. The company is comprised of three key business segments: its investment arm, Closed Loop Capital Management; its innovation center, the Center for the Circular Economy; and its operating group, Circular Services. Closed Loop Capital Management manages venture capital, buyout private equity and catalytic private credit investment strategies. Closed Loop Partners’ catalytic private credit arm, the Closed Loop Infrastructure Group, provides a flexible mix of financing solutions to support a range of circular economy projects, companies, infrastructure and enabling technologies. The Closed Loop Infrastructure Group deploys catalytic capital, which seeks to accelerate and de-risk the development of high-impact projects and companies. Areas of strategic investment include: providing below-market rate loans to finance circular infrastructure, providing catalytic financing to increase recovery of hard-to-recycle plastics and PET bottles, and financing and deploying small-scale, modular materials recovery facilities (MRFs) to increase recycling in communities with no or limited access to recycling. Closed Loop Partners is based in New York City and is a registered B Corp. closedlooppartners.com.

 

Closed Loop Partners Invests Nearly $15M in Recycling Infrastructure Upgrades Across Several U.S. Municipalities

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November 29, 2023

The investments financed new collection carts and recycling technologies, supporting municipalities in their goals to advance a local circular economy for materials

November 29, New York, NY — Over the last year, Closed Loop Partners provided approximately $15 million in catalytic investments to local municipalities across the country, financing projects to upgrade recycling infrastructure and services across the Midwest and Southeast regions of the U.S. Deployed by funds within the firm’s catalytic private credit arm, the Closed Loop Infrastructure Group, these investments help advance the necessary infrastructure to ensure valuable materials are collected, processed and returned to supply chains at their end-of-life.

As the circular economy grows in North America, the diverse group of stakeholders that are critical to its development, including local municipalities, often lack access to the funding needed to improve recycling services––an important step to achieve zero waste goals and advance a circular economy. The Closed Loop Infrastructure Group’s first fund was created nearly 10 years ago to support these public projects and private companies, and since then has grown with market demand, expanding to four different funds that have invested in over 45 different projects to date––from new recycling carts, to recycling facilities upgrades, to innovative recycling technologies and more––keeping over 3 million materials in circulation and avoiding over 6 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. Across all their investments, the funds have collectively been able to catalyze capital inflow from other sources equivalent to three times what has been deployed, significantly amplifying the impact generated.

Alongside innovative companies advancing new recycling solutions, municipalities have played a key role in accelerating recycling infrastructure improvements across the United States. Often a case study in the success of public-private partnerships, local waste authorities have led the way toward building more robust local circular economies. The infrastructure upgrades financed by the Closed Loop Infrastructure Group have resulted in nearly $40 million in direct savings to municipalities to date, through more materials kept in circulation and out of landfills.

Building on its wide range of investments––encompassing both municipal projects and private companies advancing circular solutions from material collection, to processing and remanufacturing––Closed Loop Partners’ Infrastructure Group provided flexible financing to several municipalities over the past year:

The Central Virginia Waste Management Authority

The Central Virginia Waste Management Authority (CVWMA) is a leading public service authority with a strong track record in the recycling and waste management space, representing counties and localities in the Central Virginia (Richmond) area. Only five of the area’s eight counties participating in the Authority’s recycling program had 95-gallon curbside recycling carts, and CVWMA sought a loan from the Closed Loop Infrastructure Fund to help finance the purchase of over 90,000 95-gallon carts for the three remaining jurisdictions. In July 2023, the Closed Loop Infrastructure Fund provided a loan of over $4 million to fund the new 95-gallon carts provided by Rehrig Pacific, upgrading from 24-gallon bins and enabling a 5,000-7,000 incremental increase in tons of materials collected per year, with the potential to increase to ~8,000 tons per year. This was done in collaboration with The Recycling Partnership, who provided grant funding, technical support, as well as education and outreach for the upgraded recycling program.

The Waste Commission of Scott County

Scott County is the third largest county in Iowa, with the Waste Commission of Scott County serving over 25 counties in Iowa and Illinois and over 185,000 total households. The Commission’s relationship with Closed Loop Partners began nearly 10 years ago, when the Commission was first looking to finance upgrades to their recycling infrastructure services. The Closed Loop Infrastructure Fund provided funding to the Commission in 2015 and 2018 to finance new single-stream recycling carts and infrastructure improvements, respectively. The success of these investments resulted in a follow-on multi-million dollar loan in 2022 from the Closed Loop Infrastructure Fund, alongside the Closed Loop Beverage Fund and Closed Loop Circular Plastics Fund, to finance the purchase of new optical sorters to increase and improve the existing facility’s sorting capacity. The new loan will help grow the processing of valuable recyclable materials throughout the region, including polypropylene. When installed, the equipment upgrades will provide more than 3.5 million pounds of additional capacity and allow for the recovery of an additional 900,000 pounds of materials each year.

Kansas City

Building on long-standing commitments to support recycling efforts, the City of Kansas City, Missouri sought a loan to finance the purchase of 162,000 new curbside recycling carts to increase the City’s material collections services, impacting 380,000 residents. In 2023, the Closed Loop Infrastructure Fund and Closed Loop Beverage Fund provided a loan of over $5 million to the City, financing 162,000 65-gallon carts from Rehrig Pacific––an upgrade from the City’s 20-gallon bins. This upgrade helps enable a 2,000-3,000 incremental increase in tons of material collected per year, with the potential to increase to 10,000 incremental tons per year. This initiative to increase collection access in the City was made possible by a collaboration among private and public partners, including Closed Loop Partners, the American Beverage Association’s Every Bottle Back initiative, Missouri Beverage Association, The Recycling Partnership, Dow and Rehrig Pacific.

The need for investments into recycling infrastructure is critical, given a misalignment between the volume of materials produced––from packaging to consumer products––and the infrastructure available to recover them, process them after use and return them to manufacturing supply chains. Over the last decade, the Closed Loop Infrastructure Fund laid the groundwork to solve this challenge. Moving forward, the four funds within the Closed Loop Infrastructure Group continue to deploy capital into projects that help strengthen the infrastructure needed to recover materials at their end-of-life, and increase the volume of quality recycled material to meet a growing demand for these materials and commitments toward a waste-free world.

If you are interested in applying for funding from the Closed Loop Infrastructure Group, learn more about Closed Loop Partners’ catalytic capital strategy here.

About the Closed Loop Infrastructure Fund at Closed Loop Partners

Established in 2014 and funded by some of the world’s largest retailers, corporate foundations, technology and consumer goods companies, the Closed Loop Infrastructure Fund provides below-market rate loans to finance projects that build out circular economy infrastructure in the United States. Investors include 3M, Amazon, Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, BlueTriton, Keurig Dr Pepper, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Danone North America, Danone Waters, Starbucks, Unilever and Walmart Foundation. Learn more about the Fund’s investment criteria and apply for funding here.

About the Closed Loop Circular Plastics Fund at Closed Loop Partners

The Closed Loop Circular Plastics Fund provides catalytic financing to build circular economy infrastructure and improve the recovery of polypropylene and polyethylene plastic in the U.S. & Canada, returning plastics to more sustainable manufacturing supply chains for use as feedstock for future products and packaging. Investors include Dow, LyondellBasell, NOVA Chemicals, Charter Next Generation, Chevron Phillips Chemical, SEE, SK geo centric Co. and SMBC. Learn more about the Fund’s investment criteria and apply for funding here.

About the Closed Loop Local Recycling Fund at Closed Loop Partners

The Closed Loop Local Recycling Fund is a circular economy initiative managed by Closed Loop Partners and funded by PepsiCo, aiming to finance and deploy small-scale, modular materials recovery facilities (MRFs) to increase recycling in communities with no or limited access to recycling, reduce waste and unlock a new supply of recycled plastic. Learn more about the Closed Loop Local Recycling Fund and apply for funding here.

About the Closed Loop Beverage Fund at Closed Loop Partners

In partnership with the American Beverage Association, the Closed Loop Beverage Fund seeks to improve the collection of the industry’s valuable plastic bottles so they can be made into new bottles through investments in recycling and circular economy infrastructure in the United States. Learn more about the Closed Loop Beverage Fund here.