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


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.



[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.”



How a South Carolina Paper Mill Started Recycling Your Paper Coffee Cups

By Daniel Liswood, Senior Project Director at the Center for the Circular Economy in conversation with Scott Byrne, Director, Global Sustainability Services at Sonoco

September 26, 2023

A spotlight on Sonoco and its recycling tests with the NextGen Consortium

In July 2022, Sonoco announced it would accept paper cups in bales of mixed paper at its paper mill in Hartsville, South Carolina. The NextGen Consortium supported cup trials with Sonoco. Below, we discuss with Scott Byrne, Director, Global Sustainability Services at Sonoco how the organization made this decision and what considerations companies might want to take when exploring the recyclability of different types of packaging.

This work represents part of a forthcoming report on paper cup recovery in the United States intended for release in late fall. 

Scott Byrne, Director, Global Sustainability Services at Sonoco

1. Who is Sonoco and what are you focused on?

Sonoco is a South Carolina-based global packaging company with more than 20 mills worldwide. Among our packaging products, we manufacture rigid paper cans, steel cans, thermoformed plastics and other packaging formats. Sonoco is uniquely positioned as a leading recycler, paper mill operator and paper packaging converter, in addition to other formats, to help push the industry to look towards future innovations and grow end-of-life solutions across the entire paper value chain.

2. How do you typically approach recycling of new products at your mills?

After validating that our mills could recycle rigid paper cans in residential mixed paper, we decided to further demonstrate the ability to recycle other similar polycoated fiber-based containers through the post-consumer mixed paper stream.

3. Where do you currently accept paper cups?

Hartsville, South Carolina. and we are exploring other Sonoco mills as well that use residential mixed paper.

4. What are some of the steps you took to determine that accepting cups wouldn’t create new challenges for your mill?

With support from the NextGen Consortium, we conducted two main activities to assess how cups might behave. First, we conducted lab-based testing of both single- and double-sided poly-coated fiber cups. Second, and after we were confident that the cups would not pose any issues to our equipment, we ran a large-scale trial whereby we dosed in nearly 20 tons of cupstock and cups into our pulper alongside other mixed paper, increasing the volume relative to other materials to test the system and upper bounds of materials we’d anticipate receiving if we accepted cups. Based on those results we felt confident that cups could be included in our accepted materials list and we were thrilled to have the mill listed alongside others on Foodservice Packaging Institute’s end market map of mills that accept cups.

5. What about your other paper mills?

Before we broadly accept cups at more of our mills, we’d want to distill our findings from the Hartsville location and consider any additional steps those mills would need to take to feel confident in accepting cups. This might include additional lab-and mill-based trials.

6. Any advice you’d give to other mills considering including cups?

Every mill is slightly different, from their equipment to operating conditions to inbound material mix. Testing to those conditions is a key proof point in determining what might work best in that location.

7. What’s next for Sonoco in its efforts to improve polycoated paper recycling?

Sonoco is a founding member of the Polycoated Paper Alliance that kicked-off in March 2023, which aims to increase widespread end-market acceptance of polycoated paper packaging products. We are collaborating with like-minded member brands and industry leaders on developing improved and harmonized data, updated design guidelines, expanded end market acceptance and upgraded mill specifications, among other initiatives.  

Purposeful Collaboration for a Sustainable Future 

By Kate Daly

December 05, 2022

We have learned a tremendous amount along the way, from brands, from customers, and from innovators who are helping to imagine a future where waste is a thing of the past.

Collaborating to solve complex challenges is hard. But scaling new systems effectively and sustainably is even harder when done alone. As we transition from our embedded linear systems into new, interdependent circular ones, we still have much to learn and test so that new approaches can become operational in a diverse set of contexts. Through our NextGen and Beyond the Bag consortia, Closed Loop Partners catalyzes collaborations with innovators and system operators across the packaging value chain to test opportunities and identify pain points within a new reuse economy. We bring together some of the world’s largest companies to harness their expertise and reach to unlock system-wide scale for a waste-free future.  

More than four years ago, when Closed Loop Partners joined with Starbucks, McDonald’s and other brand leaders to launch the NextGen Consortium, we set out to reinvent the cup—and to accelerate systemic change across the industry. We have learned a tremendous amount along the way, from brands, from customers, and from innovators who are helping to imagine a future where waste is a thing of the past. In early 2020, the NextGen Consortium launched a set of reuse ecosystem pilots in the San Francisco Bay Area in partnership with the design firm IDEO. Our report Bringing Reusable Packaging Systems to Life highlighted key insights from these in-market tests, and these learnings are the building blocks for the next phase of testing and innovation the NextGen Consortium is embarking upon in the coming year. 

[READ: The Comeback of Reuse, and the Path Forward] 

As we look forward to all the work ahead, we are pleased to welcome PepsiCo as a Sector Lead Partner, alongside Founding Partners Starbucks and McDonald’s, inaugural Sector Lead Partner The Coca-Cola Co., Supporting Partners Yum! Brands, Wendy’s and JDE Peets, and Environmental Advisory Partner WWF. PepsiCo adds valuable experience to our deep bench of innovators and system operators.  

Continuing collaboration helps unlock greater system-wide scale so that we can go further — together. We’re proud to continue advancing initiatives where competitors are meaningfully engaged in co-creating a more sustainable future for packaging.  

Partsimony Closes $2M Seed Round to Help Organizations Build Intelligent Manufacturing Supply Chains


October 28, 2021

Closed Loop Partners, a circular economy-focused investment firm, leads the round

New York, NY – 8:00 AM EST, October 28, 2021 – Partsimony is pleased to announce the successful close of a $2M Seed round, led by Closed Loop Partners’ Ventures Group with participation from Contour Ventures, Urban Us, and other top institutional and angel investors. Partsimony is a SaaS network that unifies disparate data from multiple sources to more efficiently manage hardware from prototype through production, bringing superior intelligence to manufacturing supply chains.

Today, hardware companies are dealing with a paradigm shift happening in manufacturing supply chains, witnessing:

  • Increases in Commodity Volatility. Volatile raw material costs impact the availability of basic component parts. Banks expect commodity prices to rise ~10% in the next year with Copper up 90%+ from 2020 (Bloomberg). The uncertainty of component availability impacts engineering designs, production schedules and costs. 
  • Increases in Frequency and Severity of Supply Chain Risks. Unknowns are the new norm. 94% of Fortune 1,000 companies are still seeing residual supply chain disruptions from COVID-19 (Accenture). Supply chain disruptions are becoming more frequent with increasing climate-related disasters, too. 
  • Growing Geopolitical Disruptions. Product costs are driven up by external factors (i.e. reshoring, trade wars, taxes/customs duties, etc.), with additional scope 3 emissions requirements underway.

Executives in the industry recognize that “We’ve been so optimized the last 3 decades on low cost supply that we’ve lost track of resilient supply” (Axios). In this new paradigm, supply chain resilience and speed in decision-making will be an immense competitive advantage for hardware companies. Partsimony is building a cognitive manufacturing supply chain that leverages transactional data to provide deep insights around Manufacturer Discovery, Design Intent, and Supply Chain Resilience.

Similar to a “SaaS hive mind,” Partsimony is building proprietary machine learning models that provide tailored recommendations for both hardware companies and manufacturers, based on their given component design files and manufacturer networks. This enables Partsimony to provide hardware companies with an intelligent manufacturing supply chain infrastructure that is more quickly adaptable to disruptions. 

Partsimony has already been tested and adopted by startups and large enterprises alike. Partsimony uniquely works with a hardware company from initial prototypes up through full-scale production. Case studies from closed beta tests show that the results achieved with Partsimony have saved over 96% in cost reductions and months in lead time.

“Sourcing the right parts on complex hardware products is difficult and has never been more important in this global chaotic and disrupted supply chain. Partsimony’s strong value proposition solves difficult and complex requirements by connecting designers and innovators with manufacturers in a collaboration process that creates intended design outcomes in a cost effective, high quality, and repeatable manner.”

— Marty Guay, Vice President of Business Development, STANLEY BLACK & DECKER

“Partsimony is critical for our business; the platform allows us to spend more time focusing on design improvements than on searching and communicating back and forth with prospective manufacturers.”

— Sam Miller, Founder & CEO, PROTEUS MOTION

The Seed funding will help Partsimony capitalize on this unique moment in global supply chain development and enable manufacturing supply chains to be more resilient.

“We are thrilled to bring Closed Loop Partners’ Ventures Group into the Partsimony family as a partner who brings industry connections, guidance and their fundamental thesis of circular economy to the table. Closed Loop Partners shares our vision of digitizing, optimizing and regionalizing supply chains for efficient and sustainable hardware production,” said Partsimony CEO, Rich Mokuolu. 

“Closed Loop Ventures Group is pleased to have Partsimony as a part of our portfolio. They are meeting a critical need for hardware companies and manufacturers to design with more recycled materials, with less waste, and for recoverability. Their platform aligns with macrotrends of shorter supply chains, more rapid product turns, and increased responsiveness and resiliency to supply chain disruptions,” said Danielle Joseph, Executive Director, Closed Loop Partners. 

This funding round will allow Partsimony to scale their SaaS platform beyond beta and drive value for repeat and new customers. Partsimony is actively working with customers across the automotive, aerospace, robotics, and medical device product segments, and they are open to speaking with all companies building complex hardware products.

About Partsimony

Partsimony is a SaaS network that unifies disparate data from multiple sources to efficiently manage hardware from prototype through production and bring superior intelligence to manufacturing supply chains. Partsimony enables hardware companies and manufacturers to make smart decisions faster, and enhance their supply chain resilience. Learn more at 

About Closed Loop Partners

Closed Loop Partners is a New York-based investment firm comprised of venture capital, growth equity, private equity, project finance, and an innovation center focused on building the circular economy. Investors include many of the world’s largest consumer goods companies and family offices interested in investments that provide strong financial returns and tangible impact. Learn more at

Press Contact

[email protected] 

Rich Mokuolu, Partsimony CEO

Winners of The Reusies™ Announced by Upstream and Closed Loop Partners


October 01, 2021

Inaugural National Reuse Awards show, hosted by TV personality and science communicator Danni Washington, celebrated four heroes of the Reuse Movement

Last night four heroes of the reuse movement were announced as winners of the National Reuse Awards (aka The Reusies) among an audience of policymakers, investors, corporate and NGO leaders, and other influential attendees working towards a world without waste. The virtual awards show was presented by Upstream, a non-profit sparking innovative solutions to plastic pollution, in partnership with Closed Loop Partners, a circular economy-focused investment firm and innovation center.

“Never has recognition of heroes in the reuse movement been more crucial as we experience the multiple effects of climate change and plastic pollution in the air, on land and in our oceans,” said Matt Prindiville, CEO and Chief Solutioneer at Upstream. “The recipients of The Reusies are true trailblazers and game-changing innovators of the growing reuse economy. In the not-too-distant future, our hope is that the leaders we’re honoring today will have scaled reuse systems and passed policies in communities throughout the world that make it possible to get what we want and need without the waste.”

Recipients of The Reusies accepted their honor during a one-hour event hosted by TV personality and science communicator Danni Washington. The winners are:

  • Activist of the Year: Crystal Dreisbach

    Crystal founded Don’t Waste Durham and has since created GreenToGo, Bull City Boomerang Bag, and The ReCirculation Project. She helps lead their policy work on bags and serviceware and, in 2020, co-founded the Reuse Systems Alliance made up of 35+ reuse companies around the world. Crystal uses her activist platform to build awareness and catalyze action by running workshops and giving talks to a wide range of audiences. “Change is made by demonstrating that new, better ways are possible!”

  • Fan Favorite Reuse Company (which was based 100% on public vote): Plaine Products

    Plaine Products is working to make the world less trashy with its reusable aluminum containers for hair and body care products. The bottles are made to be durable so they’re not damaged when customers ship them for refilling. They’re also easily cleaned so they’re safe to use multiple times over.

  • Most Impactful Community Leadership: Reusable LA

    Reusable LA is a coalition of organizations working to reduce plastic pollution in Los Angeles to safeguard public health, communities, and the environment. They use legislative advocacy, outreach, and community engagement to promote reuse and refill in Los Angeles and to reduce waste from single-use plastic products and packaging. Reusable LA has taken a leadership role in promoting reusables through policy advocacy with campaigns like #SkiptheStuff and ensures its tools and resources reach LA’s diverse communities.

  • Most Innovative Reuse Company: Rheaply

    A leader in the circular economy, Rheaply is a Chicago-based technology company that enables organizations to share and manage underutilized inventory in a more cost-efficient, collaborative, and connected manner. With Rheaply’s Asset Exchange Manager (AxM)TM, organizations can gain transparency about and re-utilize available assets, reducing procurement & storage costs, and avoiding unnecessary waste.


Added Bridget Croke, managing director at Closed Loop Partners: “Scaling reuse systems is critical if we are to address the mounting global waste challenge. The winners of The Reusies demonstrate how individuals and organizations are paving a better pathway forward, working to protect our precious planet by keeping valuable materials in play and out of landfills and the environment.”

The awards were interspersed with thought leadership panels, moderated by Washington, discussing the importance of advancing a more circular economy that included Prindiville and Croke, alongside visual artist and activist Benjamin Von Wong and  Fast Company senior staff writer Elizabeth Segran.

The inaugural show also featured a performance by singer Kori Withers, followed by a virtual party and networking reception for VIPs (“Very Important Protectors” of the planet). For those who could not attend and would like to view bonus footage of the evening’s panels, go to Upstream’s YouTube channel. You can learn more about all the finalists and what was featured in the show by visiting The Reusies official event program. There will also be an episode on The Indisposable Podcast with the full panel discussion in the future; to sign up to receive more information, visit

“The simple fact is that the planet is our spaceship. If we can reconnect people back to the planet, back to earth, back to nature, and see the importance of shifting out of this mode of extinction and wasteful practices, that reconnection will invigorate the reuse movement even more,” commented Washington.


About Upstream: 

Upstream is an environmental non-profit sparking innovative solutions to plastic pollution by helping people, businesses and communities shift from single-use to reuse. The organization’s first-ever National Reuse Awards (aka The Reusies), will took place virtually on September 30.To learn more about all Upstream programs, visit and follow on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube.

About Closed Loop Partners:

Closed Loop Partners is a New York-based investment firm comprised of venture capital, growth equity, private equity, project-based finance and an innovation center focused on building the circular economy. The firm has built an ecosystem that connects entrepreneurs, industry experts, global consumer goods companies, retailers, financial institutions, and municipalities, bridging gaps and fostering synergies to scale the circular economy.


The Comeback of Reuse, and the Path Forward

By Georgia Sherwin, Director of Strategic Initiatives & Communications

June 16, 2021

Many feared that the COVID-19 pandemic would push climate and sustainability priorities to the backburner, but the opposite proved true. Setbacks on the use of reusable bags and cups were only temporary as the world adjusted, and overall we witnessed an increase in popularity of reusable packaging solutions that alleviate the waste associated with single-use packaging. Consumer demand, behavior changes brought on by the pandemic, regulatory shifts, technological developments, the strong business case for resource efficiency and the need to protect our environment are all driving the growth of modern reuse models. As cities, towns and states across the U.S. start to reopen, and with Starbucks’ recent announcement that personal reusable cups will be accepted once more (on June 22), it’s critical that we examine the potential of these models, why they’re growing and how to remove any potential roadblocks in their pathway to scale

First, the basics: What do reuse models look like?  

Think back to the milkman model and then add a few more bells and whistles; you’ll land at today’s optimized refill and reuse models. From personal care products to beverages, refilling reusable containers is becoming more popular. There is no one size fits all when it comes to reuse. Some models are tech-enabled, which helps companies track, discount and incentivize reusable and refillable packaging, while gaining customer insights. Other models have completely closed loop systems, with collection, washing and disinfecting stations embedded in the dispensing machines to sanitize and return packaging onsite. And finally, the simpler models of previous decades hinge on “bringing your own” packaging to collect your products. 

Why are reuse models growing so quickly in 2021? What are the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on reuse?

Heightened visibility of single-use plastic waste during the pandemic has further galvanized consumers and brands

As lockdowns were implemented across the U.S., many of us turned to food delivery. Amid a global health crisis, these services were a lifeline. But after relying on them day in and day out, the resulting pile of single-use plastic containers, cutlery or sachets mounting in the trash has become too much to ignore. Headlines across the globe extol these concerns, noting that COVID-19 has “supercharged” the world’s takeout habit and left a big mess, or that plastic waste has surged as restaurants use more disposable packaging. The same trend was seen with single-use masks, which now litter streets across the globe. With this heightened visibility of waste, more consumers are now clamoring for alternatives to single-use. 

Meanwhile, brands are doubling down on their sustainability efforts, including the implementation of reuse models. To name just a few examples of businesses prioritizing circularity amid the pandemic, in 2020 Closed Loop Partners convened 13 leading retailers representing more than 50,000 stores in the U.S. to reinvent the retail bag as part of our Beyond the Bag Initiative. This year, the initiative announced multiple winning reusable bag solutions that will be piloted over the coming months. Our portfolio company, Algramo, expanded to the U.S. in 2020, working with brand partners like Clorox and Colgate-Palmolive to offer refill services for household cleaning products in reusable packaging. Similarly, early in 2021, Burger King in the U.S. and Japan and Tim Hortons in Canada piloted reusable, container programs through Loop, a circular packaging platform. Just Salad also announced its plans to expand its popular reusable bowl program for digital orders.  

Increased digital literacy amidst the pandemic has helped better prepare us for the reuse revolution 

At the beginning of 2020, the concept of scanning a QR code to see the menu at a restaurant was likely alien, and laborious, at best. Yet today, ordering food at any restaurant often now involves scanning a QR code to see the menu. COVID-19 has fundamentally accelerated the digitization of our daily lives, as businesses and stakeholders across the globe experiment with increasingly “contact-less” or “automated” processes. The resulting uptick in e-commerce, and subsequent familiarity with a host of digital applications, including mobile wallets and tap-and-go payment systems, have helped to change habits and increase our collective digital literacy. 

This progress has laid the groundwork and opened many possibilities for the future of reuse models. Reusable packaging today often harnesses state-of-the-art technology to build smart systems that provide transparency to the user and useful analytics to the producer––bringing value to both retailers and customers. QR codes or radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags enable stakeholders to check a reusable product, for example a cup or bag, in and out along its lifespan, increasing visibility and in doing so creating opportunities for incentives for customers to return their packaging. The more familiar we become with QR codes or RFID, the smoother and easier the transition to reuse models will be.

Growing regulatory pressures in the U.S., including single-use plastic bans, are accelerating momentum for reuse  

The landscape of U.S. policies around materials management is changing rapidly in response to the urgency of the plastic waste challenge. The recent Break Free from Plastics Act 2021 not only lays the foundation for extended producer responsibility in the U.S., but also incentivizes businesses to create reusable products that can remain in circulation for multiple uses, moving away from single-use. These shifts in federal legislation are further bolstered by single-use plastic bans across multiple U.S. states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont. Most recently, Washington state fast-tracked its plastics phase-out, with goals to ban single-use bowls, cups, plates, cutlery, straws, polystyrene food containers, thick plastic bags and helium balloon releases by the end of 2021, four years earlier than its initial 2025 target. As these regulatory shifts continue to gain traction, it will be critical to move toward a more collaborative and holistic approach across states to create a consistent regulatory environment, as businesses adapt their operations to integrate reuse models and other circular solutions. Right now regulations vary per place, and businesses must adapt accordingly. A more holistic approach could help align interests and accelerate consistent educational messaging to advance circularity. 

The odds seem in the favor of reuse right now, but what’s the catch? What do we need to watch out for? 

Reuse models must prioritize accessibility and convenience, or swathes of the population will be left behind 

As the “hippies” of the 1970s championed the protection of the earth and the promotion of sustainable practices like “reuse,” so have today’s affluent “yuppies” taken up the cause. As a result, sustainable products are now most often associated with a hefty price tag. But to move from serving a niche sliver of the population to the mainstream, reuse models need to work for everyone. They can’t be limited to high earners, nor can the ushering in of “smart,” tech-enabled reuse systems forget that not everyone has a smartphone or credit card.  Reuse models will be most successful when the needs of multiple stakeholders are integrated, to build widespread acceptance and accelerate uptake. We will need a multitude of innovations to fit different contexts—geographic, economic & social. 

Algramo is one company that is making reuse more affordable. The company’s system not only reduces single-use packaging waste through the use of reusable containers, but it also allows families to buy what they can afford. Through Algramo’s vending machines, customers can choose to purchase the exact quantity of cleaning product they need in bulk pricing, no matter how small the amount. 

Thorough analysis of the environmental impact of reuse models is necessary to evaluate any potential tradeoffs 

To be the most appropriate fit for a product or packaging, reuse models must have a net positive environmental impact. Last year, our NextGen Consortium––a convening of leading foodservice brands, including Starbucks and McDonald’s––piloted several reusable cup systems designed to reimagine a more sustainable beverage experience. These pilots demonstrated the need for stakeholders to consider two core principles for product design: 1) build to last and 2) build to be recovered. And yet, all materials used for packaging, even within reuse models, have an environmental footprint. To choose the least impactful material, its entire lifecycle must be taken into account. There are the upstream environmental costs to consider––for example, how energy intensive it is to extract the material––as well as the downstream costs of recovering materials after use. The number of times reusable packaging is used also ties directly to its environmental impact, as does its end-of-life pathway. For example, glass might be aesthetically appealing for customers, but it is heavy––making it more costly and emissions-intensive to transport––and is more difficult to recover.  Faced with this choice, reusable plastic options could be the more lightweight and recyclable option. 

While there are no simple answers, there are many possibilities. The pandemic has urged us to rebuild the status quo, and the runway for reuse models is being cleared. As we move forward, evaluating each reusable product or packaging application in its full context––with its entire life cycle and its operating market in mind––can help ensure that the reuse models of the future are economically sound, environmentally responsible, and accessible to and inclusive of all communities. As the conditions grow more optimal for the rise of reuse, we look forward to continuing the work needed to scale these models to their full potential, including building partnerships with brands to accelerate uptake.   

Closed Loop Partners invests in cutting-edge reuse and refill models through its investment funds, while also testing, piloting and scaling new reusable packaging solutions through its Center for the Circular Economy. In partnership with Upstream, Closed Loop Partners has also helped to launch the first national reuse awards in the U.S. — The Reusies. This inaugural event celebrates the pioneers, the trailblazers, the innovators and game-changing heroes who are working and advancing systemic change and solutions to create a world where we can get what we want and need without all the waste. Nominate companies and individuals here

What Tomorrow’s Retail Bag Looks Like

By Kate Daly

February 16, 2021

Hint: It’s not a single-use plastic bag.

12 minutes. That’s how long it typically takes from the moment we receive a single-use plastic bag to the moment we discard it. And those 12 short minutes barely register within the much longer life cycle of the plastic bag. The story of the plastic bag starts with extracting finite fossil fuels––like natural gas ––and usually ends in landfills, or worse, in our oceans, where they take decades to break down. It’s time that we identify a better, more resilient way forward for retail––one that maximizes valuable resources and benefits the customer, the retailer and the planet.

Every year, 100 billion single-use plastic bags are used annually in the U.S., and fewer than 10% of those are recycled. Plastic bags continue to be one of the top ten most littered items on our beaches, contributing to a mounting global waste crisis. And now, the urgency of these environmental challenges are coming head-to-head with a rapidly changing retail landscape, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay-at-home mandates from many governments and work-from-home policies from many companies are driving the growth of e-commerce and digitization as consumer habits shifted almost overnight. This shake-up in retail norms presents the ideal moment for reinventing the single-use plastic bag through new business models and design innovation. If there was ever a time to rethink the status quo of our retail system, it is now. 

The plastic bag plays a pivotal role in the retail experience; whether you’re buying groceries, ordering a shirt for delivery or picking up a prescription. It’s an extension of the store beyond its premises, and a convenience to the consumer, as we carry our goods home, pick them up from the curb or receive them at our doorsteps. To address the challenges of this shared experience around the plastic bag, we need a whole suite of  solutions that can fit the varied retail contexts and customer needs across different geographic, social and economic environments.  

This week, our Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag’s global innovation challenge, the Beyond the Bag Challenge, identified nine winning solutions that show the breadth and real-world promise of solutions that already exist to help reinvent retail and the plastic bag . Each brings a unique contribution to creating a new way to get our goods home, and together they can help pave the way forward, capitalizing on current market trends and shifting consumer habits in order to advance larger, industry-wide sustainable change. 


Tracking the bag throughout its life

New digital technologies make it possible for customers and retailers to see well past the 12 minutes that elapse between the current checkout counter to disposal of today’s single-use plastic bag. They provide a clearer, more holistic picture of the lifespan of the bag, and with it, elevate the transparency of entire supply chains.

EON uses the Internet of Things (IoT) to help retailers track inventory, manage reverse logistics and understand how bags are used by monitoring impact data throughout the bag’s value chain, and extending lines of sight into their full lifecycle.

SmartC, a solution co-created by 99Bridges and Envision Charlotte, leverages IoT technologies to connect reusable bags, enabled by smart tags, at participating retail stores, allowing retailers to reward customers with points, coupons or discounts every time they reuse their shopping bags. 

And what about all the existing reusable bags sitting in our closets? Fill it Forward created a tag that connects our bags to a mobile app where users track their environmental impact, help give back to charitable projects, and offer rewards that encourage reuse—significantly extending a bag’s lifetime.

Meeting customer needs

Amidst a changing retail environment, these innovations recognize that habits are difficult to break, and to address this challenge, they have innovated around our lifestyles. Their Reuse models offer durable alternatives to the current retail bag, improving on the user experience not only from a performance standpoint, but from an environmental perspective too.  

GOATOTE offers a kiosk system that provides us easy access to clean reusable bags, solving for those moments you do not have a reusable bag, but don’t want the trade-off of a single-use alternative offered at the store.

ChicoBag aims to have lightweight, compact, reusable bags readily available for a variety of customer interaction points––delivery, curb-side pick-up or in-store.

For those who shop online or use pick-up services, Returnity designs and manufactures reusable shipping bags and boxes for products already on the market, and provides the e-commerce and delivery packaging system that powers how these bags and boxes are used. 

Aligning with existing retail operations 

Some emerging innovators are focusing on material science innovations that result in bags that are indistinguishable from today’s plastic bag to a customer or retailer at checkout, but are sourced from renewable materials and follow different paths at end of use.  

To replace traditional thin film plastics, Sway offers a seaweed-derived material that is bio-based and has the potential to be carbon-negative at scale. Their replacement matches the strength and performance of traditional plastic bags.

PlasticFri, on the other hand, sources starch from agricultural waste, creating a bio-based, compostable bag.

As an  upgrade to traditional paper bags, Domtar is developing a new bio-based, recyclable material of 100% cellulose fiber that  is stretchable and stronger, able to stand up to multiple uses. When considering which type of materials to introduce to a location, it is equally important to assess the availability of local curbside organics collection and anaerobic digestion and composting facilities, to ensure that these bags can be processed at end-of-life. 

Today, the outsized impact of plastic bag waste demands innovative solutions. However, as companies work toward zero-waste goals, the packaging of items that go inside the bag is also an important consideration. In recognition of this, we are giving special recognition to two Beyond the Bag Challenge submissions as Circular Trailblazers. These companies are advancing refillable and reusable packaging systems for products across retail, from food to cleaning supplies, broadening the horizon for the waste-free future of retail. Algramo, a start-up based in Chile and now piloting in New York, has created a mobile dispensing system for personal care and cleaning products that allows shoppers to skip packaging all together. Loop, developed by TerraCycle, creates reusable and recyclable packaging alternatives for some well-known household products, eliminating the need for single-use packaging when customers visit a store, or deliver these items to their homes.  

There is no one replacement for the current single-use bag––the solution lies in a combination of approaches that can fit into diverse retail markets.  And it’s critical to test these solutions. The nine winners of the Beyond the Bag Challenge––Chicobag, Domtar, EON, Fill it Forward, GOATOTE, PlasticFri, Returnity, SmartC and Sway––need further investment, refining and piloting to help set them up for success, with support from the retail partners who came together to create the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag. We look forward to the exciting work ahead to assess how these solutions can align with customer needs, the growing demand for circular solutions, and the changing face  of retail. 

Closed Loop Partners Publishes First-of-Its-Kind Report to Navigate Plastic Alternatives in a Circular Economy


December 15, 2020

The report provides a guiding framework for innovators, brands and investors and calls for more research and rigorous testing to avoid unintended consequences

Read the full report

Dec 15 – Today, Closed Loop Partners released a report dispelling myths and demystifying the rapidly growing landscape of plastic alternatives, with a focus on bio-based plastics, biopolymers and compostable products and packaging. The report unpacks the opportunities and challenges within the industry’s move toward these alternative materials, considering sustainable sourcing of feedstocks and end-of-life recovery pathways that recapture their material value after use.

Currently, only 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled globally, while 11 million metric tons of plastic waste enters our oceans every year––costing people, the planet and business*. In response, consumers and regulators are increasingly pushing companies to align their products and packaging with waste reduction and climate impact goals. This pressure has led to companies making ambitious public commitments for implementing plastic-free products, eliminating non-recyclable formats and increasing the recycled content in their packaging. This, in turn, has spurred a rapid and, at times, haphazard shift away from petroleum-based, single-use plastics that are bound for landfill. 

As companies deploy strategies to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics in their products and packaging, many are exploring bio-based plastics, biopolymers and compostable alternatives such as polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) and polylactic acid (PLA). If formulated in accordance with certification standards and captured properly after use, compostable packaging can contribute to net positive climate impacts by contributing to carbon sequestering, nutrient-rich compost and help increase diversion of food scraps from landfills. The promise of compostable packaging is resulting in rapid growth: the market for biopolymers and bio-based plastics is expected to reach nearly $27.9 billion by 2025, up from $10.5 billion in 2020, with over 2.8 million metric tons expected to be produced in 2025, up from 2.1 million metric tons in 2020**. 

However, compostable alternatives are not a silver bullet, and as they begin to enter the market at higher volumes, there is not enough recovery infrastructure to recapture their full value efficiently. Only about 185 full-scale commercial composting facilities in the United States accept food waste, and even fewer accept compostable-certified packaging. With new materials already outpacing the capacity of our existing recovery infrastructure, there is a critical need to address the misalignment between production and end-of-life to ensure even higher volumes of compostable packaging don’t end up in landfill in the future. Ultimately, biopolymers and compostable alternatives must sit within the broader context of a number of plastic waste mitigation strategies; they play a very specific role as one line of defense against waste––after reduction and reuse ––and should only be deployed in certain formats and contexts to drive value to organics processors. 

“This report does not seek to define one material as environmentally superior to another, but instead, dispels some myths around this growing sector of compostable packaging, laying the groundwork for informed decisions on when reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging might be most appropriate,” says Kate Daly, Head of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “We continue to research, explore, and test, and invite you to join us on our collective journey toward a circular economy that eliminates waste and builds sustainable, inclusive systems for all.”

Closed Loop Partners applies a holistic circular economy framework to the assessment of these new materials, based on the firm’s unique expertise garnered from their ecosystem of funds. Closed Loop Partners’ investment platform spans venture capital to private equity, and the Center for the Circular Economy specializes in convening brands and stakeholders to solve shared material challenges. 

* UN Environment. Beat Plastic PollutionBreaking the Plastic Wave: Top Findings for Preventing Plastic Pollution 

** Bioplastics & Biopolymers MarketMarket update 2020: Bioplastics continue to become mainstream as the global bioplastics market is set to grow by 36 percent over the next 5 years

About Closed Loop Partners

Closed Loop Partners is a New York-based investment firm comprised of venture capital, growth equity, private equity and project finance, as well as an innovation center focused on building the circular economy. The firm has built an ecosystem that connects entrepreneurs, industry experts, global consumer goods and technology companies, retailers, foundations, financial institutions and municipalities. Their investments align capitalism with positive social and environmental impact by reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions via materials innovation, advanced recycling technologies, supply chain optimization and diversion of materials from landfills. Learn more at


Griin Raises $2M, Led by New York-Based Circular Economy Investor, Closed Loop Partners

By Ramat Gan, Israel (PRUnderground)

December 09, 2020

This investment round reflects the opportunity for circular solutions that increase efficiencies, reduce costs, and protect the environment. The investment will provide the Israeli startup additional resources to continue innovation on its patent-pending system that integrates autonomous, rapid, and smoke-free roasting at the point of consumption. This shift is instrumental in eliminating both unnecessary international transportation of coffee beans to centralized roasting facilities and eliminating multilaminate packaging required to artificially preserve the freshness of previously roasted coffee. Griin is now entering its pilot stage in Israeli corporate offices of the world’s tech giants.

Griin, a pioneer in on-demand zero-pollution roasting, today announced it has secured $2M in Seed Round investment, led by Closed Loop Ventures Group, the early-stage investment arm of Closed Loop Partners. Griin’s countertop roasting solution is poised to change the commerce of coffee by bringing green coffee beans directly to the forefront of the trade and into the hands of the consumer, focusing on the workplace coffee segment. Doing so eliminates unnecessary international transportation of coffee beans to centralized roasting facilities and the multilaminate packaging required to artificially preserve the freshness of previously roasted coffee On demand roasting offers an elevated experience with a better quality for the most sustainable cup of coffee.

The investment by Closed Loop Partners, a leading circular economy-focused investment firm will enable the company to complete the initial rollout of the company’s roasting add-on appliance which fits on top of any bean-to-cup coffee machine. Griin’s appliance is powered by state-of-the-art proprietary volumetric roasting technology and orchestrated by deep-learning algorithms, ensuring a clean, rapid, and eco friendly solution. The compact desktop roaster is complemented by a supply of specialty coffee secured via griin’s direct sourcing operation.

“We are thrilled to partner with Closed Loop Partners for their resources, guidance, and many years in promoting the shift to a circular economy with their leading corporate partners including Starbucks, Nestlé and others. This funding round will allow us to release our first product to market in the enterprise high-tech market segment,” said griin CEO, Yuval Weisglass.

The office coffee market has seen incredible growth over the past five years. Vending Market Watch estimates a CAGR of 5.46% bringing the market to a whopping $19.31B by 2024. High-end bean-to-cup solutions comprise 50% of weight sales, while contributing to ~80% of the revenues. Griin is leading the on-demand roasting revolution alongside growing market demand for higher quality and sustainable office coffee solutions.

“Griin’s technology has immense potential for impact by vertically integrating the coffee roasting process at the point of consumption. Today, coffee supply chains are overly complex and inefficient, with a lot of landfill-bound packaging, culminating in high costs and a lower quality product for end-consumers,” says Ron Gonen, CEO of Closed Loop Partners. “Griin’s economy of green coffee beans increases efficiencies and streamlines processes, creating a higher quality, fresher product, while eliminating waste.”

Griin plans to continue to work on R&D projects and pilots with enterprise high-tech companies and will expand its market to additional territories, including US, Europe, and Australia.

About griin

griin is a deep-tech startup pioneering an innovative coffee roasting solution. griin’s proprietary, patent-pending technology uses volumetric heating to roast green coffee beans, enabling an optimal technique for non-industrial coffee roasting with the highest quality of fresh coffee for consumers.

At scale, this solution has the potential to decentralize the coffee supply chain, leading to a more balanced profit share for coffee producers and resellers, while dramatically improving various aspects of sustainability. The Israel based company was founded by three experienced entrepreneurs with the vision of disrupting the coffee market by providing an innovative roasting solution, focusing initially on the office/workplace segment. Learn more at

About Closed Loop Partners

Closed Loop Partners is a New York-based investment firm comprised of venture capital, growth equity, private equity, project finance, and an innovation center focused on building the circular economy. Investors include many of the world’s largest consumer goods companies and family offices interested in investments that provide strong financial returns and tangible social impact. Learn more at

The Emerging Innovations Transforming How We’ll Bring Goods Home

By Closed Loop Partners and IDEO

November 02, 2020

The Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag Identifies 58 Shortlisted Solutions Across Reusable Design, Innovative Materials & Enabling Technology––Paving the Way Towards a More Circular Future

Explore The Shortlist

The Beyond the Bag Initiative, launched by the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, aims to identify, pilot and implement viable design solutions and models that more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag. Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy launched the initiative with Founding Partners CVS Health, Target and Walmart. Kroger joined as Grocery Sector Lead Partner, DICK’S Sporting Goods as Sports & Outdoors Sector Lead Partner, and Hy-Vee and Walgreens as Supporting Partners, alongside Conservation International and Ocean Conservancy as Environmental Advisory Partners. OpenIDEO is the Consortium’s Innovation Partner.

What does it take to reinvent the retail bag? And what solutions exist today? These are the questions we asked as we launched the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag in July of this year, bringing some of the nation’s most influential retailers together to solve for the 100 billion single-use plastic bags used annually in the U.S. These bags too often end up polluting our oceans, stuck in our trees or being wasted in landfills, and it’s time that we create a better path forward. 

In August, the Consortium opened the Beyond the Bag Challenge, inviting entrepreneurs, designers, suppliers and problem-solvers to submit solutions that replace the current single-use plastic bag. Through the Challenge, the Consortium brings to light future-forward, tech-enabled solutions that can help build a new system that serves the function of the retail bag in a sustainable, affordable and inclusive way––helping transport goods from store to destination in a way that aligns with diverse retail systems and delivers ease and convenience for all. Three months and more than 450 submissions later, it’s clear that an impressive range of innovative solutions exist. Challenge submissions span the globe across 60 different countries, and represent a range of company stages, from early concept startups to established, commercial businesses. 

We’re seeing three broad categories of innovation emerge––reusable designs, innovative materials and enabling technology––that highlight key opportunity areas, showing the range of solutions and potentially groundbreaking ways we can change retail.

How might these solutions play out in the world? What might a sustainable retail bag system look like? After evaluating hundreds of potential solutions through the lenses of sustainability, business and technical viability, accessibility, customer behavior and alignment with reuse and recovery infrastructure, the Consortium announced today a shortlist of promising solutions for further exploration [SEE SHORTLIST HERE]. 

Across the Shortlist, we’re seeing three broad categories of innovation emerge––reusable designs, innovative materials and enabling technology––that highlight key opportunity areas, showing the range of solutions and potentially groundbreaking ways we can change retail. These provide a window into the future, a teaser as to what might be to come. Identifying innovation is the first step, and with the right kind of testing, honing and piloting, we can start implementing new solutions and systems at scale. 

As we collectively become smarter about what the market needs, what consumers want in a retail experience and what new technologies might enable futures we can’t yet fully envision, we will seek to better understand how these and other solutions might work together to create an interconnected and informed system that will fundamentally shift the way we are currently shopping and getting goods home.

Reusable Designs Keep Materials in Play for Multiple Uses 

Systems-Driven Reusable Packaging Integration by Returnity


There is a growing innovation category for retail packaging centered on reuse. These solutions use durable materials that can serve the purpose of today’s single-use bag, but remain in circulation for multiple uses within a user-friendly system. Many of these solutions also involve transferring ownership back to the producers and manufacturers––shifting away from typical purchasing models and toward renting, leasing and subscription models for packaging. These include bags-as-a-service and shared-bag systems that incentivize companies to see their products or packaging as valuable assets worth investing in. Through the Challenge, we’re seeing how this broad category comes to life in a multitude of formats, especially at the initial customer interaction point––the point of sale. Solutions range from gurney-style carts that fit in the trunk of a car, to compact reusable bag withdrawal and return stations that sit at the checkout counter and continually cleaned, reusable containers that transport products directly to customers’ homes.

The innovations coming to the fore in this category have the potential to address real challenges in the retail experience. Reuse models address short-lived disposable options, extending the use time of the retail bag from today’s 12-minute average to multiple life cycles, keeping valuable materials in play at their best and highest use. However, for their full impact to be realized, it is important to dig deeper into the structures and systems that enable their long-term environmental and economic sustainability, examining reverse logistics and conducting life cycle assessments, among other areas for evaluation.

Innovative Climate-Friendly Materials Can Reduce Impacts on the Planet

#INVISIBLEBAG by Distinctive Action Ltd


Designers today are recognizing that the materials they choose for a product determine how its entire life cycle will play out, from start to end. As a result, there is a growing focus on material science innovation, and a reevaluation of what goes into products for a carbon-free future. The Challenge has brought to light a whole host of new materials that broaden the way we think about the retail bag––aiming for superior performance that better meets the needs of a diverse range of customers, without creating an outsized impact on the environment. These solutions include stretchy fibers derived from nature, water-soluble films, biopolymers processed from agricultural waste, natural materials like algae, seaweed and chitin, and upcycled materials like cotton. 

Many of these pioneering solutions draw from rapidly replenishable resources and seek to add material value at end-of-life, whether through composting or recycling systems. They diversify the resources we use to begin with, relieving pressure from just one primary source––especially fossil fuels. At the same time, we need to ensure that these new solutions don’t outpace our existing recovery infrastructure, and are actually recaptured as intended after use. 

Enabling Technologies Accelerate the Uptake of Smart, Sustainable Solutions 

IoT-enabled Food Delivery & Pickup System by Minnow Technologies


Beyond these innovations are the underlying technological processes and systems that create a scaffolding for other solutions or systems, opening up new exchanges with customers and working towards a bagless future. These might harness Quick Response (QR) codes and/or radio frequency identification (RFID) systems that enable companies and consumers, in effect, to check products or packaging in and out along their lifespan. This increases visibility and digital connectivity, which can drive better logistics and inventory management, informing strategic decision-making and incentivizing customers through “nudges” or reward programs. Innovative and “smart” delivery models, like in store kiosks or mobile applications, can also integrate with other categories––reusable designs or innovative materials––to deliver products.

It is critical that these solutions are able to scale commercially, align with market needs and integrate within existing systems of leading retailers, laying the groundwork for long-term change that cuts across industries.

Now, how do all of these solutions come together? From a birds eye view, the range of solutions is wide, with many of them complementary and potentially overlapping. If we take into account all of the ways we use the retail bag, and all of the different people around the world using retail bags, this diversity of thinking works to our advantage. And we know there are yet more avenues to explore. As we collectively become smarter about what the market needs, what consumers want in a retail experience and what new technologies might enable futures we can’t yet fully envision, we will seek to better understand how these and other solutions might work together to create an interconnected and informed system that will fundamentally shift the way we are currently shopping and getting goods home.

Ultimately, it may not be a single solution, or even a few that solve the problem. With ever increasing ways to purchase goods come ever increasing needs for a myriad of interventions that solve for niche sets of needs within specific customer or delivery segments. In reality, there is no panacea to this complex problem––different geographic, economic and social contexts demand varied approaches that cater to diverse sets of needs. If we are to change the future of retail, these solutions, from reuse models to innovative materials to the enabling technologies, need to communicate with and interrelate within a holistic ecosystem, explore new pathways of collaboration to fill in gaps or amplify one another’s strengths, and work to advance the market together, rather than separately.  

This is just the beginning of the journey, both for solutions in the Challenge and for the Consortium collectively. In the lead up to the announcement of Challenge winners in early 2021, we’ll begin working more closely with the Shortlisted innovators, helping refine their solutions, digging deeper to understand their full economic, environmental and social impact, and exploring emerging trends. And as we begin to learn where and how these solutions might apply to today’s challenges as well as tomorrow’s, we will work to advance and implement those which can bridge this innovation gap and have an eye on adaptability and agility, or on those that might enable the successful implementation of another concept or emerging technology––all to ensure we are rolling out new ventures that not only work within the operational parameters of our Partners, but serve both customers and the market at large. Overall, it is critical that these solutions are able to scale commercially, align with market needs and integrate within existing systems of leading retailers, laying the groundwork for long-term change that cuts across industries [SEE SHORTLIST HERE].

As we enter the next phase of this initiative, we are excited to work across the Consortium’s ecosystem of emerging innovators and established retail institutions to drive toward a more inclusive, affordable and sustainable future. Join us on this journey, and stay tuned for our upcoming announcement of the final Beyond the Bag Challenge winners in early 2021.