PepsiCo Beverages North America Invests $35 Million to Help Close Gap In Recycling Access through investment in Closed Loop Local Recycling Fund

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January 20, 2022

PepsiCo’s investment creates an innovative community-based recycling infrastructure model that aims to reduce waste, increase circularity, and increase availability of recycled plastic to support company’s sustainable packaging goals

Image: Example of small scale materials recovery facility: Revolution Recycling at Twin, Steamboat Springs, CO

PURCHASE, N.Y., January 20, 2022 – PepsiCo Beverages North America (PBNA) announced today a $35 million investment with Closed Loop Partners that will create the “Closed Loop Local Recycling Fund,” an innovative circular economy initiative to advance new small-scale, modular recycling systems in communities across the U.S.  The fund aims to increase recycling in areas with no or limited access to recycling, reducing waste and unlocking a new supply of recycled plastic (rPET), among other valuable materials, to support PepsiCo’s pep+ (PepsiCo Positive) sustainable packaging goals.

“As companies – including PepsiCo – set ambitious goals to use more recycled content in their packaging, there is more need than ever for partnerships and investments to increase recycling in the U.S. We need to develop the infrastructure that makes recycling available to more Americans so we can recover the high-quality material that can be used in our packaging,” said Jason Blake, Chief Sustainability Officer and SVP at PepsiCo Beverages North America. “Through pep+, our end-to-end strategic transformation, sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. As the exclusive investor in the Closed Loop Local Recycling Fund, we are actively driving the changes needed to transform the US recycling system and move towards a circular economy.”

Closed Loop Partners will use the investment to deploy small-scale modular Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in underserved communities that currently lack access to larger municipal MRFs. This gap in access is typically due to a lack of funding or geographic proximity to facilities that process the materials. The smaller, local MRFs lay the groundwork for the future of recycling, introducing a new way to meet and adapt to the various needs of communities across the U.S. These modular recycling systems are smaller and less capital intensive than traditional large-scale recycling facilities, reducing the need for the costly transportation of recycled materials to larger MRFs outside of the area. The small-scale MRFs will help recapture valuable recyclables––paper, plastic, glass, and metals––reducing waste sent to landfill and unlocking a new supply of recycled materials. Each individual system creates the capacity to recycle at least 8,000 tons per year of materials, including keeping 400 tons of rPET in circulation every year. They are also expected to yield higher quality plastic while also reducing the costs and greenhouse gas emissions  associated with the longer distance transportation of the materials.

This investment reinforces PepsiCo’s desire to create a world where packaging never becomes waste and to increase recycling rates in the United States. It aims to support PepsiCo’s goal to cut virgin plastic from non-renewable sources across our food and beverage portfolios by 50% by 2030.

“This first-of-a-kind investment from PepsiCo ushers in a new future for local recycling, empowering communities across rural America and small cities to reduce waste and harness the value of their recycled commodities,” says Ron Gonen, Founder & CEO of Closed Loop Partners. “By closing the loop on these commodities, which can then re-enter local manufacturing supply chains, we are better equipping communities with the tools needed for resilience against a globally changing climate, while also creating new revenue opportunities and jobs. We look forward to continuing our long-standing partnership with PepsiCo to build and strengthen circular supply chains.”

This announcement comes on the heels of a $15 million PBNA investment in Closed Loop Partners’ Leadership Fund, a private equity fund that seeks to acquire and grow companies, including those in the packaging value chain, to strengthen recycling infrastructure and build circular supply chains that keep materials out of landfills. These investments are part of a long history of PepsiCo partnering with Closed Loop Partners to make strides on material recovery and infrastructure advancements:

  • In 2021, PepsiCo became a founding partner of Closed Loop Partners’ Composting Consortium, managed by their Center for the Circular Economy. The Consortium brings together leading voices in the composting ecosystem in the United States to identify the best path forward and pilot industry-wide solutions to increase the recovery of compostable food packaging and drive toward circular outcomes.
  • In 2014, PepsiCo became a founding member of the Closed Loop Infrastructure Fund, which has provided investments that cities, counties, and businesses in the U.S. use to take the steps necessary to move recycling to the next level, including new trucks for pick-up/hauling and cutting-edge technology to make materials recovery facilities work more efficiently.
  • Through American Beverage’s Every Bottle Back Initiative, PepsiCo is an investor in Closed Loop Partners’ Beverage Fund, which seeks to improve the collection of the industry’s valuable plastic bottles so they can be made into new bottles using rPET. This fund partners with other beverage companies, as well as nonprofits and NGOs like The Recycling Partnership and WWF to reduce their plastic footprints, improve recycling access, provide education to residents, and modernize recycling infrastructure in communities across the country.

 

As the Closed Loop Local Recycling Fund begins investing in community recycling, municipalities across the U.S., as well as local haulers, can reach out to Closed Loop Partners if they are interested in exploring a small-scale, modular MRF in their community.

 

About PepsiCo

PepsiCo products are enjoyed by consumers more than one billion times a day in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. PepsiCo generated more than $70 billion in net revenue in 2020, driven by a complementary food and beverage portfolio that includes Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Quaker, Tropicana, and SodaStream. PepsiCo’s product portfolio includes a wide range of enjoyable foods and beverages, including 23 brands that generate more than $1 billion each in estimated annual retail sales.

Guiding PepsiCo is our vision to Be the Global Leader in Convenient Foods and Beverages by Winning with Purpose. “Winning with Purpose” reflects our ambition to win sustainably in the marketplace and embed purpose into all aspects of our business strategy and brands. For more information, visit pepsico.com.

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. 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’s business verticals build upon one another, bridging gaps and fostering synergies to scale the circular economy.

To learn about the Closed Loop Local Recycling Fund, visit Closed Loop Partners’ website.

PepsiCo Cautionary Statement

This release contains statements that constitute “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements are generally identified through the inclusion of words such as “aim,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “drive,” “estimate,” “expect,” “goal,” “intend,” “may,” “plan,” “project,” “strategy,” “target” and “will” or similar statements or variations of such terms and other similar expressions. Forward-looking statements inherently involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those predicted in such statements, including future demand for PepsiCo’s products; damage to PepsiCo’s reputation or brand image; political or social conditions in the markets where PepsiCo’s products are made, manufactured, distributed or sold; climate change or measures to address climate change; changes in laws and regulations related to the use or disposal of plastics or other packaging of PepsiCo’s products; failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations; and potential liabilities and costs from litigation, claims, legal or regulatory proceedings, inquiries or investigations. For additional information on these and other factors that could cause PepsiCo’s actual results to materially differ from those set forth herein, please see PepsiCo’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its most recent annual report on Form 10-K and subsequent reports on Forms 10-Q and 8-K. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any such forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date they are made. PepsiCo undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

Starbucks and McDonald’s Deploy Additional $10 Million with NextGen Consortium to Accelerate the Circularity of Foodservice Packaging & Address Urgent Waste Challenge

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October 20, 2021

The Consortium expands its work to advance reusable packaging systems, strengthen recycling and composting infrastructure and scale foodservice packaging innovation

NEW YORK, Oct. 20, 2021 — Today, Closed Loop Partners announced an additional $10 million commitment from the NextGen Consortium‘s Founding Partners, Starbucks and McDonald’s, to continue the Consortium’s work: identifying, accelerating and scaling commercially viable, circular foodservice packaging solutions. The Coca-Cola Company increased its commitment to now participate as a Sector Lead Partner, paving the way for sustainable packaging solutions for its broad customer base. JDE Peet’s, Wendy’s and Yum! Brands will continue their participation as Supporting Partners in the Consortium, and the Consortium continues to invite other brands to join the effort.

Since 2018, the NextGen Consortium has made significant headway in advancing sustainable packaging innovation and recycling infrastructure to help end foodservice packaging waste, with an initial focus on redesigning the single-use hot and cold fiber cup. The Consortium’s NextGen Cup Challenge sourced 480 solutions globally to redesign the cup, selecting 12 winning solutions across three areas: innovative cup & cup liners, new materials, and reusable cup service models. Following the Challenge, the Consortium has continued to advance the development of innovative cup and cup liner innovations, and the Consortium’s Circular Business Accelerator supported six early-stage teams to help test and refine their solutions.

In 2019 and 2020, Accelerator teams executed on-the-ground tests at a large tech company’s campus with four solutions, including two reusable systems, moving to the pilot phase across 14 local, independent cafes in the San Francisco Bay area. These solutions received valuable feedback from customers, restaurants and other key stakeholders. Drawing on insights from those pilots, the Consortium released a first-of-its-kind report, Bringing Reusable Packaging Systems to Life, sharing a blueprint and open-source resource to encourage collaboration and the growth of reuse models. The Consortium also continued its work across the broader foodservice packaging value chain, conducting dozens of lab- and commercial-scale tests with recyclers, material test labs and paper mills to evaluate the performance, recyclability and recoverability of the fiber cup solutions. As part of this work, the Consortium collaborates with paper mills, recycling facilities and municipalities to expand recycling access and recovery of fiber cups as well as NextGen cups.

“Through NextGen, we’ve made great progress in growing more sustainable packaging solutions, and there is a lot more work to be done. Faced with increasing climate risks, eco-conscious customers and a resource-constrained world, the foodservice industry must double down on its efforts and band together to strategically tackle the mounting waste challenge,” said Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “Starbucks, McDonald’s and other partners in the Consortium make clear their commitment to collaboratively accelerate more circular foodservice packaging solutions, and we encourage stakeholders––from packaging manufacturers to recyclers to designers––to join us in advancing NextGen solutions.” 

With the additional $10 million in funding, the Consortium will expand its efforts, including and beyond the fiber cup, to strengthen the sustainable packaging ecosystem. The Consortium will deepen its customer research and testing of reusable packaging systems, explore the circularity of additional packaging materials such as polypropylene (PP), and accelerate the development of more widely recyclable and compostable fiber-based packaging solutions, as well as the infrastructure pathways needed for their recovery. The Consortium’s increased focus on PP is driven by the growing demand for recycled PP in foodservice packaging, and the need to optimize recycling infrastructure to capture the material. With its additional focus on polypropylene, in 2020, the Consortium joined The Recycling Partnership’s Polypropylene Recycling Coalition as a Steering Committee member, collaborating to allocate millions of dollars in grants to recycling facilities to improve polypropylene recycling.

“Starbucks’ work with the NextGen Consortium has been an important part of our ongoing efforts to reduce single use cup waste, part of our larger goal to reduce waste sent to landfills by 50% by 2030,” said Michael Kobori, Chief Sustainability Officer at Starbucks. “There has never been a more critical time for industry collaboration to shift away from single-use packaging, promote reusability, and champion recyclability. We are thrilled to continue our work with the NextGen Consortium to drive sustainable solutions for our planet.”

“Over the last three years, the NextGen Consortium has demonstrated that working together as an industry helps accelerate sustainable change, and is paving a clear pathway forward for the industry to scale packaging solutions that can benefit the planet and the communities we serve,” said Marion Gross, Senior Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer at McDonald’s North America. “Knowing that industry-wide collaboration is essential to creating lasting, scalable impact, we invite others to join us in this important work to advance solutions and eliminate packaging waste.”

Individual waste mitigation efforts by Founding Partners Starbucks and McDonald’s further bolster the Consortium’s work to accelerate sustainable packaging innovation, foster more robust recovery opportunities for packaging, and develop, enhance and optimize emerging reuse models. Starbucks continues to innovate to encourage the use of personal reusable cups in stores, most recently in partnership with Ocean Conservancy, and will continue to test and learn from programs geared toward reducing single-use cups around the world. McDonald’s has also made strides toward reuse, partnering with TerraCycle’s Loop platform to pilot reusable cups in the brand’s UK stores, and continues to make tremendous progress in ensuring its packaging comes from renewable, recycled or certified sources.

“Getting to a circular economy will require every community, organization and industry to be involved in making it a reality. The food & beverage industry touches all people, and so the need for more sustainable packaging for our customers is a top priority,” said Alpa Sutaria, General Manager, Sustainability, North America Operating Unit, The Coca-Cola Company. “We are proud not only to continue our work with the NextGen Consortium, but to increase our commitment, now as a Sector Lead Partner. We invite others to join us in this effort to strengthen and scale circular solutions for packaging.”

“With approximately 11 million metric tons of plastic waste ending up in our oceans every year, we need to bring circular packaging solutions to the table. We know that to tackle this massive, shared challenge, all stakeholders have to be involved,” said Erin Simon, Head of Plastic Waste + Business at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). WWF is an environmental advisory partner for the Consortium. “The NextGen Consortium can play an important role in catalyzing the collaboration we need by enabling cross-sector partnerships and open-source insight sharing, and we are proud to be a partner in this important work.”

Moving forward, even greater collaboration among businesses, industry groups, nonprofits and others will be needed to solve systemic waste challenges. Through the expanded commitment of the NextGen Consortium, the multi-year collaboration will continue to work across the value chain––with global brands, municipalities, NGOs, recyclers and manufacturers––to advance viable market solutions that scale throughout the supply chain and bring value to recovery systems.

About the NextGen Consortium

The NextGen Consortium is a multi-year consortium that addresses single-use food packaging waste globally 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 joining as a sector lead partner. 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

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. In 2018, Closed Loop Partners launched its innovation center, the Center for the Circular Economy, which unites competitors to tackle complex material challenges and to implement systemic change that advances the circular economy. Closed Loop Partners brings together designers, manufacturers, recovery systems operators, trade organizations, municipalities, policymakers and NGOs to create, invest in, and support scalable innovations that target big system problems. Learn more about the Center’s work here.

Upstream and Closed Loop Partners Announce Nominees of Inaugural National Reuse Awards

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August 17, 2021

The Reusies: Virtual awards show for Reuse Movement in the U.S. celebrates heroes of a world without waste on September 30 ─

NEW YORKAug. 17, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Upstream, a non-profit sparking innovative solutions to plastic pollution, today announced the nominees of the first-ever virtual National Reuse Awards (aka The Reusies), which will take place Thursday, September 30. Presented in partnership with circular economy-focused investment firm and innovation center, Closed Loop Partners, the awards show will be hosted by TV personality and science communicator Danni Washington and celebrate the heroes of reuse.

Tickets to attend the event and sponsorship honoring Most Innovative Reuse CompanyActivist of the YearFan Favorite Reuse Company, and Most Impactful Community Leadership are available as of today. The final winners will be announced during the show.

“The Reusies is a celebration of pioneers and innovators in the growing reuse economy,” said Matt Prindiville, CEO at Upstream. “The individuals and organizations we’re recognizing are launching innovative ideas to protect the planet. They’re charting a future to get what we want and need without all the waste.”

The nominees for Most Innovative Reuse Company are: AlgramoRheaply, and TURN.

The nominees for the remaining three categories are:

 

Award winners (except Fan Favorite Reuse Company) will be selected by a combined panel of judges and public voting. Judges include:

 

Added Kate Daly, managing director at Closed Loop Partners, on why they chose to be a presenting partner: “Reuse is vital in addressing the global waste challenge. We’re joining forces with Upstream to bring attention to the incredible ecosystem of innovators working toward a circular future. This builds on our existing work, as we research, test and invest in solutions that keep valuable materials in circulation longer.”

The event will be emceed by Danni Washington and streamed online on Thursday, September 30 at 4:00PM PT / 7:00PM ET and include performances by singer Kori Withers, video montages, award presentations, and a panel discussion on why reuse wins for the environment and economy through innovation and entrepreneurship. There will also be a live VIP session immediately after the show with speed networking in online breakout rooms.

Tickets are now available at www.TheReusies.org at an early-bird price of $10 for general admission (one screen) through August 31 (after that, general admission ticket cost will increase to $25). VIP Tables (which include 10 screens, access to the VIP after show and other perks) are available at $2,500. Category-exclusive sponsorship and brand integrations are also available. For more information, email [email protected] or visit the event website. For press inquiries contact Jen Maguire[email protected]; social: #TheReusies @Upstream_org @LoopFund.

SOURCE Upstream

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To Package or Not to Package? 3 Critical Steps to Advance Sustainable Food Packaging

By Kate Daly

May 06, 2021

Today, brands and manufacturers are faced with endless choices and tradeoffs when it comes to food packaging. Take the packaging options for cheese. From individual foil-wrapped wedges to a round of Camembert packaged in its own rind to plastic-wrapped singles, to resealable plastic bags of shredded cheese, the multitude of options reflect the broader trend of diversifying packaging designs. Yet, which is the most cost-efficient option? Which creates less waste? What supports the longest shelf life? In today’s food system, these questions are relevant to every packaged food item — and packaging design determines not just how much packaging waste results, but also plays a role in how much food waste is generated. 

From a packaging perspective, the more sustainable option is often assumed to be the option that looks the most natural, or organic — the one with less plastic, or less material overall. In many cases this is true, but the assessment of “sustainability” becomes more complex when the package’s contents are food — one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions when mismanaged and wasted.

In its recent U.S. Climate Summit, the Biden administration set the ambitious goal of reducing GHG emissions in the U.S. by 50 to 52 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. It remains critical to keep the significant climate impact of the food system top of mind. The energy used to produce food and transport it to our plates is enormous. According to a United Nations study, one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity can be attributed to the way we produce, process and package food. And despite all the energy used to create this food, in the U.S. we throw away $43 million worth of it into landfills, where food waste emits greenhouse gases as it decomposes.

Since the earliest days of global food supply chains and industrial food manufacturing, food, food packaging and environmental impact have been intrinsically linked. At Closed Loop Partners, we invest in companies and business models that create innovative, waste-free solutions that prevent resource loss. When looking at the intersection of packaging and food, we believe that setting the course for a more sustainable path forward begins with three initial steps.

1. Consider the tradeoffs

Let’s revisit the cheese packaging options. The choices with bigger servings in their own rinds or in less packaging may seem more environmentally responsible overall, the rationale being the less packaging the better. And ideally the packaging used is widely recyclable or compostable. For households where all the cheese will be eaten within a certain time period, these options with little to no packaging might be the lowest waste option. But what if not all the cheese is eaten before it spoils? That’s food waste that could have been avoided if a smaller portion, albeit with a higher ratio of packaging to product, was chosen. Today, 31 percent of shoppers buy fresh produce in bulk to avoid unnecessary packaging. When aiming to reduce packaging waste, this is an effective tactic. But 53 percent of consumers have said that they waste more food when buying in bulk. According to the National Zero Waste Council, for many types of foods, “any GHG reductions achieved by not pre-packaging food are quickly outweighed by even a minor increase in food waste.”

57% of U.S. consumers want more resealable packages, and 50% want more variety in product sizes.

As eating and cooking habits change, more consumers today are looking for packaging that caters to storing food in their kitchens for longer, using small quantities at a time or buying smaller quantities at a time. Fifty-seven percent of U.S. consumers want more resealable packages, and 50 percent want more variety in product sizes. Particularly, they want to see baked goods, bagged salad, bread and meat available in smaller package sizes. How can we ensure that these preferences, which align with a reduction in food waste, can be met with more sustainable packaging options?

2. Invest in smarter packaging design

Innovation in packaging design can help reconcile the tradeoff between food waste and excess packaging. Smarter packaging works not only for the benefit of the food it contains, but also for the retailers and customers it serves. Emerging “active” and “intelligent” technologies help slow spoilage, giving information on food quality or safety, as well as enabling transparency across supply chains.

Where are we seeing progress? Closed Loop Partners invests in companies across the food and agriculture sector to strengthen every stage of the value chain — from farm to transport, retail, consumption, waste collection, food scrap and organics processing and back to the farm. We have invested in TradeLanes, a company that digitizes trade execution for container ships, increasing transparency in the global trade system to make the process faster, easier and more profitable. By better understanding where and when goods are in port versus in transit, we can ensure the right storage and create the optimal conditions for the transportation of food.

We’ve also invested in Mori, a company that has commercialized silk-based edible coatings that prevent food spoilage in transport and at retail and reduce the need for packaging. Its innovations — coatings applied directly to food, films to replace plastics — can be applied to whole or cut produce, prepared food, raw meat, seafood and processed foods. The edible coating is safe to eat, invisible, tasteless and virtually undetectable. Because it keeps food fresher for longer, less food goes to waste, which benefits the grower, farmer, shipper, processor, retailer, consumer and planet.

Improved package design and active and intelligent packaging also have a combined net annual financial benefit of $4.13 billion.

3. Collaborate to accelerate systemic change

To create system-wide change, stakeholders across the plastics and packaging and food and agriculture sectors and recovery systems need to be at the table together. We’ve seen the power of collaboration thanks to our work in the NextGen Consortium, launched by our Center for the Circular Economy to convene leading brands, industry experts and innovators to reimagine foodservice packaging and reduce waste. The Center’s new Compostable Packaging Consortium is deploying a similar pre-competitive, collaborative approach to identifying greater opportunities for the recovery of compostable packaging, in particular the role packaging can play in increasing food waste diversion from landfills.

In line with this work, we are partnering with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) and its new initiative, Food Waste Repackaged. The initiative brings together experts and innovators to address the urgent challenge of food waste, exploring and advancing the role of packaging in addressing this waste in consumers’ homes, food service and retail and spurring new packaging innovations. Closed Loop Partners is proud to partner with SPC, together with GreenBiz, Packaging Europe, ReFED, RILA and Ubuntoo, on a Learning Series, Innovation Challenge and Mentorship Program to help tackle this problem.

When done thoughtfully and collaboratively, packaging reduction and design innovations present robust environmental, economic and social benefits. Preventing food waste is a top solution to climate change, and changes to packaging design could help prevent 650,000 tons of food waste a year in the U.S. Improved package design and active and intelligent packaging also have a combined net annual financial benefit of $4.13 billion. Catalyzing these solutions, and inviting dialogue across multiple stakeholders, brings us a step closer to building a more efficient, less wasteful food system.

 

Originally published in GreenBiz.

Circular Economy Infrastructure Will Build Value For All Americans

By Ron Gonen

May 03, 2021

The circular economy is becoming big business in America. For example, just one piece of the circular economy, the recycling industry, generates over $100 billion in economic activity, nearly $13 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue and supports over 500,000 jobs annually. 

On a more personal level, as global supply chains began to crack during the COVID-19 pandemic, our domestic recycling infrastructure saved us from major shortages of critical consumer products — like toilet paper. But that is only a fraction of the value the circular economy can provide on both a local and national level.

A policy known as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), now being introduced at the state and federal level, would create a massive investment in local recycling and circular economy infrastructure. Through a fee paid by consumer goods companies, thoughtfully-constructed EPR will save billions of dollars spent annually in landfill disposal fees. It would create hundreds of thousands of local jobs and provide consumer goods companies a reliable and cost-effective alternative to their current dependence on limited raw materials, which generate enormous amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during extraction.

In the past, advocating that companies take responsibility for the sustainable management of their products was the sole domain of environmentalists. But we are now seeing multiple stakeholders, including CEOs, politicians, customers and shareholders align on the view that when brands invest in local recycling and circular economy infrastructure to protect the environment, it creates value for businesses too. In New York this January, State Sen. Toddy Kaminsky (D) introduced an EPR bill that has gained broad support, and similar legislation has been introduced or is being considered in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington state.

A select group of CEOs of major consumer goods companies have recognized that what happens to a product after its initial use poses a risk — but when managed properly, can be an opportunity to secure long term value. Mark Schneider, the CEO of Nestlé, wrote recently, “[B]old and meaningful action in this space can become a competitive advantage, contributing to improved market share and growth.” Former Unilever CEO, Paul Polman, saw the opportunity to meet consumer demand years ago and trailblazed with sustainable business practices and products. During his decade-long tenure as CEO from 2009-2018, Unilever’s stock price increased by 290 percent. Investors took notice. Alan Jope, Unilever’s current CEO, has continued to expand Unilever’s commitment to sustainable business practices.

Three considerations are key to make EPR successful. First, stakeholders should gain consensus on the goal for EPR and incentivize brands to achieve it. Second, we should update the definition of “recyclable” to ensure that only products that are profitable for municipal recycling programs are designated as recyclable. Third, we must allocate funds from an EPR program directly to municipal recycling programs and empower local leaders to invest the funds in the infrastructure required to achieve their waste reduction goals. Styrofoam is an example of a packaging material that is challenging to recycle and has a limited market, while aluminum is infinitely recyclable and has a strong market.

For true accountability, all parties should set a goal for the policy and decide how to measure progress. Experience shows us that the best objective would be a recycling rate percentage well above today’s average recycling rate of around 30 percent, and a percentage of post-consumer recycled content used in the manufacturing of a product or packaging. EPR fees charged to consumer goods companies should not be viewed as the goal, but as a means to achieve the goal of a fully circular production system, where reliance on natural resource extraction and landfills is limited. Therefore, incentives for brands — fee waivers, designation to consumers and public recognition — are key for products to achieve a high recycling rate and use of recycled content. Where it’s not possible for producers to currently meet such goals for a particular product due to technical or economic limitations, this system and waiver could help incentivize producers to switch to recyclable or compostable materials or adopt reusable packaging models.

Which brings us to the next: a clear definition of what “recyclable” means. Recyclable has traditionally been defined as the ability of a product or material to be collected and sorted by a recycling facility in the United States. This does not take into account the economics of the recycling industry and the municipal recycling programs that are expected to remain solvent and grow. The result: consumer goods companies claiming that a product is recyclable, while municipal recycling programs struggle to find profitable end markets for it.

“Recyclability” should be defined as “a product whose primary material is sold by a municipal recycling facility for a profit.” Therefore, in order to receive a designation of “recyclable,” a product should have a market value of above the processing cost of materials (paper, metal, glass, plastic) at municipal recycling facilities across the United States. This stipulation would encourage producers to be more rigorous from the outset regarding their packaging design, connecting the diverse pieces of the system, from designer to producer to recycler, so that all stakeholders are in agreement that a product has value in a circular system. The EPR fee structure should be designed to motivate brands to ensure that their product is recyclable (per the definition above), is recycled and uses all or mostly recycled content in manufacturing.

Third, we should allocate funds from an EPR program directly to municipal recycling programs, empowering local leaders to invest the funds in infrastructure and innovation. It is critical that legacy policies, such as bottle bills that conflict with municipal recycling collection programs, be phased out as EPR policy is adopted. There are a number of leaders that have accomplished amazing things with limited funding, showing that investments made directly in local municipal recycling programs and at the direction of local leaders will yield the best results.

While EPR won’t solve all of our waste issues, thoughtfully-constructed EPR will provide the foundation for the development of comprehensive recycling and circular economy infrastructure in the United States. And with thoughtful incentives, companies that strive to be leaders in reducing waste, will be recognized and rewarded.

We are a country that has demonstrated that when the interest of business aligns with the interest of policy makers and local communities, we can develop infrastructure that creates massive long-term value. Thoughtfully-constructed EPR has the potential to do just that.

Ron Gonen is the CEO of Closed Loop Partners, a circular economy-focused investment firm and innovation center and author of “The Waste Free World: How the Circular Economy will Take Less, Make More, and Save the Planet.”

Originally published in The Hill.

Closed Loop Partners Releases Data Visualization Tool That Shows Significant Opportunity to Recapture Valuable Plastic Waste in the U.S. and Canada

By Closed Loop Partners

November 17, 2020

With only 18% of plastic packaging recycled in the U.S. and Canada, this tool guides investors, brands, entrepreneurs and policymakers to make data-driven decisions and collaborate toward a circular future 

Explore The Map

Tuesday, November 17 (New York) — Today, Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy released their U.S. and Canada Recycling Infrastructure and Plastic Waste Map, as part of their broader Advancing Circular Systems for Plastics and Packaging Initiative. The comprehensive visual tool brings to light the diversity of plastic waste and the volumes and flows by country and state, highlighting critical opportunities to recapture valuable plastics and re-incorporate them into manufacturing supply chains.

The analysis shows that the U.S. and Canada are sending 11.5 million metric tons of plastic packaging to landfill every year, with the recycling system currently only capturing 18% of packaging.  This comes at a time when demand for recycled content is growing rapidly, with over 250 brands and retailers in the U.S. publicly committing to increase their use of recycled content in products and packaging. Yet, the supply of recycled content to meet this fast-growing demand is missing. Closed Loop Partners found that the current supply of recycled plastics meets just 6% of demand for the most common plastics in the U.S. and Canada.

Enhancing the transparency of supply chains and better measuring and understanding the current flow of materials are essential first steps to improve plastics recovery. Closed Loop Partners published the U.S. and Canada Recycling Infrastructure and Plastic Waste Map to identify the magnitude of the plastics waste challenge, the key infrastructure gaps and the opportunity areas. By increasing visibility across the plastics value chain, we can drive collaboration among diverse stakeholders––from policymakers and brands, to plastics manufacturers and materials recovery facilities. 

The analysis also highlights the diverse formats, applications and end-of-life markets for plastics, demonstrating the need for multiple solutions to stem plastic waste. Mechanical recycling in the U.S. and Canada recaptures the value of 2,557 million metric tons of plastic packaging after final use per year, primarily from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles kept in circulation. But, mechanical recycling is not an end of life solution for many other forms of plastic waste, like apparel, construction plastics, automotive applications and more, where there may be an opportunity for advanced recycling to fill this gap and solve for these hardest-to-recycle plastic-based products. However, these solutions still cannot serve all materials and markets perfectly or in perpetuity, and we must also deploy and scale reuse and rental systems, among others, to help extend the life of materials and reduce the overall volume of virgin plastic entering the market. Current strategies to address plastic waste are complementary, but taken alone they will be ineffective at producing a circular system for all plastics. Without a multi-pronged approach, plastic waste in all forms, from various industries, will continue to grow. 

“To efficiently and effectively tackle all plastic waste, we must first understand the volume and types of plastic flowing through our economy,” says Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “Using plastic packaging as a starting point, this analysis helps investors, brands, entrepreneurs and policymakers understand the diversity of plastic waste in our system and make data-driven decisions. This tool helps galvanize stakeholders to accelerate our collective journey toward a circular economy for plastics through multiple plastic-waste mitigation strategies, and we call upon additional industries to share their data on plastic waste streams to shed light on the additional opportunities.” 

Closed Loop Partners embarked on this study to map the volume of plastic packaging and containers specifically, but this is far from the only plastics that must be solved for. The plastics growing in landfill are diverse, including plastics from car parts, healthcare and textiles. The firm is working with organizations across the U.S. and Canada to leverage additional data on other plastic materials and add to this dataset to drive greater transparency and better understanding of all types of plastic waste flowing through current systems. The firm calls upon industry to look beyond packaging and collect data on all plastic waste to create a circular future.

“Foundational to effective action and investment is an informed understanding of where, how much and what quality of plastic waste is being generated in the United States and Canada,” says Anne Johnson, Principal and Vice President of Global Corporate Sustainability for Resource Recycling Systems (RRS). “Packaging waste only scratches the surface of the plastic waste problem. Polyester textiles contribute to 13.4 billion pounds of landfill waste in the U.S., and require both traditional and new advanced recycling platforms to recapture their value after use. This data visualization tool can be built upon to shine a light on the full spectrum of plastic waste in existence today, providing much-needed transparency and collectively advancing a circular economy for plastics.”

“We are excited to see this U.S. and Canada Recycling Infrastructure and Plastic Waste Map from Closed Loop Partners,” says Peylina Chu, Executive Director for the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council. “As the healthcare industry looks for circular solutions for the millions of tons of clean healthcare plastic, this map helps set a precedent for collaborative efforts along the plastic value chain that can help efficiently identify and leverage synergies between healthcare plastics and other valuable scrap plastic streams as we all add data and share insights on this global waste challenge.” 

A more robust understanding of the status quo, strengthened by investments and policies that fill opportunity gaps highlighted by the current waste flow, will increase capacity to process more used material across the country, deliver feedstock for both mechanical and advanced recycling, create demand pull, generate additional jobs, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and advance the transition to a circular economy. 

 

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 companies, retailers, financial institutions and municipalities. 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 landfill diversion. Learn more here

About Advancing Circular Systems for Plastics and Packaging Initiative

At Closed Loop Partners, we envision a waste-free future for plastics. We launched our Advancing Circular System for Plastics and Packaging Initiative understanding that there is no silver bullet solution to solve complex global waste challenges. Ending plastics waste will require a combination of approaches such as design innovation, reuse and advanced recycling to accelerate the transition to a circular economy for plastics. Our Center for the Circular Economy partnered with Target Corporation, Bank of America, Colgate-Palmolive, 3M, The American Chemistry Council and Sealed Air to produce the U.S. and Canada Recycling Infrastructure and Plastic Waste Map. Our technical partners on this project included Resource Recycling Systems and The Recycling Partnership. Learn more about our investments, collaboration and research here.

Closed Loop Partners Provides $2.6 Million Loan to Build and Scale First Curbside Recycling Program in the City of Broken Arrow to Accelerate Circularity

By

October 20, 2020

October 20 (New York) – Today, Closed Loop Partners announced a $2.6 million loan to finance new recycling and circular economy infrastructure and activities in the City of Broken Arrow, OK. The funds go toward recycling carts for single-stream curbside collection and recycling collection vehicles. Serving 35,000 households across the city, the program aims to increase the recapture of valuable materials in the City of Broken Arrow, helping to keep these materials in manufacturing supply chains and out of landfills. 

Closed Loop Partners’ $2.6 million loan adds to a previously-awarded $390,000 grant by The Recycling Partnership to the city, which was provided by the American Beverage Association via its “Every Bottle Back” initiative. In total, the $4.5 million project comes at a key moment for strengthening recycling infrastructure across the United States, particularly in the Southwest, highlighting the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors to catalyze capital and galvanize stakeholders that can scale impact.

Closed Loop Partners provided the funding through its project finance arm, the Closed Loop Infrastructure Fund. Launched in 2014 in partnership with 12 of the world’s largest consumer goods and retailers, the fund finances recycling infrastructure and innovations across the U.S. to advance the circular economy. With growing pressures from climate change, the need to build resilient local supply chains and mitigate environmental damages has come to the fore. The circular economy provides tangible solutions––lowering greenhouse gas emissions and redirecting waste from landfill, while generating significant economic benefits by keeping valuable materials in circulation. To fully transition to circular material flows, increasing access to strong and stable recycling infrastructure is essential. 

Over the next 10 years, the initiative is projected to collect 124 million pounds of recycled material, including over 5 million pounds of new polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and 2 million pounds of new aluminum, creating strong feedstocks for eventual use in various manufacturing streams. The city will send the collected material to American Waste Control, an advanced Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Tulsa for processing. By ensuring that the pipeline of collected materials will be met by demand, the economic viability and long-term circular flow of resources is secured.

“We are thrilled to help bring this initiative to fruition for the City of Broken Arrow,” says Bridget Croke, Managing Director at Closed Loop Partners. “Opening access to and advancing recycling systems in Oklahoma is critical to building local and regional circular systems in the Southwest, and will have significant ripple effects to advancing the circular economy across the United States.”

“We are excited to begin curbside recycling in the City of Broken Arrow. We have already had great participation from our citizens, who are interested in the positive economic and environmental impact recycling will have on our city. The Broken Arrow Municipal Authority looks forward to this initiative to make our city more sustainable,” says Mayor Craig Thurmond on behalf of the Broken Arrow Municipal Authority.

The project officially launches in the fall of 2020, and marks the beginning of a cart-based recycling system for the City of Broken Arrow. For more information on this project, visit RecycleBA.com.

 

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 companies, retailers, 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 disposal.

About the City of Broken Arrow

Located in northeast Oklahoma, Broken Arrow is the fourth largest city in the State of Oklahoma, with an estimated population of over 113,000 people spread out over 61 square miles. Broken Arrow is also home to the third largest manufacturing hub in the state, with many employees working in the energy sector. Residents in Broken Arrow enjoy a high quality of life, characterized by low crime, high performing schools, affordable housing and easy access to many parks and recreational facilities. The City of Broken Arrow sets the standard by providing the best municipal programs and services.

North America’s Unique Journey Toward Circularity

By Kate Daly

October 09, 2020

Last week, I (virtually) joined more than 5,000 business leaders, policymakers and circular economy enthusiasts from across the globe for the digital World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF), convened by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra. It’s been four years since WCEF’s first convening, and it was inspiring to see the continued momentum and global interest in advancing circularity. This year was the first time WCEF was to be held in North America, reflecting the growing tide of interest here. I was happy to have the opportunity to join the events and speak to the nuances specific to our region in our journey toward circularity.    

Elements of the circular economy have existed within North America for centuries, under different names: indigenous stewardship, industrial ecology, recycling, cradle to cradle, environmental justice, remanufacturing. For the new circular economy to flourish in North America, we must commit to building on this knowledge, in addition to adapting successful international models to our own North American cultures and governing systems.

While here in the U.S and Canada we don’t have the same type of unifying mandates prevalent in the European Union, business and investors are not waiting around for national legislation. They’re deploying capital, and identifying new business models and opportunities for collaboration. Many corporations are setting ambitious goals and doing the difficult work of identifying how circularity can become an integrated part of their bottom line. And in the absence of national legislation or funding, some cities are launching zero waste mandates and circular business accelerators to turn waste into resources and create local jobs. Innovation, investment, policy and above all partnership are the key drivers of the new economic model in the U.S. and Canada, and digitization is a key enabler. And in all of this we must together ensure that the new systems put into place don’t perpetuate the negative outcomes of the old ones, where low-income communities are disproportionately affected by the environmental burdens of pollution and waste.

In our most recent report, The Circular Shift: Four Key Drivers of Circularity in North America, we at Closed Loop Partners drew on our experience as researchers, operators and investors in the circular economy to illustrate the momentum and headway made thus far. Both the public and the private sector are responding to changing consumer preferences, increasing demands for better outcomes for local communities, and regulatory pressures. And it’s the cutting edge sustainable innovations and growing investment opportunities that provide a path forward toward circularity.

We’re in an age of experimentation, perfecting reusable and refillable packaging models, renting rather than buying clothing, and transferring ownership of products and packaging back to their producers.  There are many reasons to be optimistic, and the time for action, critically, is now. The clock is ticking on our current linear economic system and the circular economy offers a viable and much-needed solution: a robust framework that aligns the interests of shareholders, corporations, local communities and the environment, and is underpinned by core principles of resource efficiency, inclusiveness and resilience.

Together, we all have a role to play to catalyze inclusive approaches to systems change that shift us toward a better, more circular economy that’s business-led and community-led. There is no question that it will require unexpected and unprecedented collaboration, but personally I’m encouraged by the progress made to date and I look forward to what lies ahead of us in North America and beyond.

Two Georgia-Pacific Recycled Paper Mills Open Opportunities for Paper Cup Recycling

By Georgia Pacific

September 15, 2020

ATLANTA, Sept. 15, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Georgia-Pacific announced today that it is now accepting mixed paper bales that contain single-use polyethylene (PE)-coated paper cups at its recycled paper mills in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Muskogee, Oklahoma. The development follows two years of partnership with the Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) and collaboration with the NextGen Consortium, a global initiative led by Closed Loop Partners with founding partners Starbucks and McDonald’s, to help open opportunities for paper cup recycling.

PE coatings, along with any remaining liquid and food left behind from use, have historically left single-use paper cups out of the recovery and recycling process. Georgia-Pacific, though, has proven through its extensive re-pulping trials that the Green Bay and Muskogee mills can effectively recapture valuable cup fiber from paper cups while screening out PE-coatings and reuse the fiber to make toilet tissue, napkins and paper towels.

“As single-use paper cups have grown in popularity in recent years so, too, has paper cup waste. As a leading manufacturer of paper foodservice products, we continually look for ways to consume fewer resources as part of our longer-term strategy to identify solutions that benefit society. Accepting mixed paper bales containing PE-coated cups at our Green Bay and Muskogee mills is a significant step in this direction,” said John Mulcahy, vice president of sustainability for Georgia-Pacific, which manufactures the Dixie® brand of paper cups.

Kate Daly, managing director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, believes Georgia-Pacific’s new repulping capability will greatly benefit the foodservice industry and further advance the industry’s environmental stewardship. “We are heartened to see Georgia-Pacific accelerate paper cup recycling through its acceptance of cups in mixed paper bales. This acceptance will also benefit new non-polyethylene next generation cups, marking an important step forward for the industry as a whole, and we hope even more mills will follow this lead. Georgia-Pacific’s actions reinforce the value of the materials in paper cups and build critical markets for recycled materials. As the managing partner of the NextGen Consortium, we continue to work with leaders like Georgia-Pacific to engage, educate, and collaborate with stakeholders across the cup value chain in order to keep valuable materials in play,” she said.

Beyond its current repulping efforts, Georgia-Pacific is also collaborating with the NextGen Consortium to trial at its mills next generation paper cups that have replaced the PE-coating with materials that can be recycled and/or composted. As founding partners of the NextGen Consortium and strong advocates of reducing single-use paper cup waste, McDonald’s and Starbucks are supportive of ongoing collaboration with Georgia-Pacific and encouraged by the company’s current re-repulping efforts.

“Increasing and improving the recyclability of cups is a vital part of our work within the NextGen Consortium. We are taking a meaningful step forward with Georgia-Pacific toward our goal of reducing paper cup waste. We’re excited by this progress and look forward to our continued partnership with organizations that support our vision of a resource-positive future,” said Michael Kobori, chief sustainability officer at Starbucks.

Marion Gross, chief supply chain officer, North America with McDonald’s added, “Recovering, recycling, and reusing the valuable materials in our cups is an important part of our sustainability ambition and our work with the NextGen Consortium. By accepting and reprocessing single-use cups, Georgia-Pacific is not only enhancing recycling pathways but also generating a supply pipeline of recycled content critical to positively impacting the environment and achieving our goals.”

With its Green Bay and Muskogee mills now engaged, Georgia-Pacific is working with FPI to expand and accelerate single-use PE-coated paper cup acceptance in curbside recycling programs in an effort to increase the number of households that can recycle the paper cups. As the voice of the foodservice packaging industry, FPI is committed to reducing the impact of its products on the environment and to advancing recycling and composting. “We are thrilled to work with Georgia-Pacific in its effort to recover and reuse PE-coated paper cups, and we are excited to partner with new communities that previously didn’t have the capability to recycle them,” said Natha Dempsey, president of FPI.

About 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 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 or to follow us on social media, visit www.fpi.org.

About NextGen Consortium
The NextGen Consortium is a multi-year, global consortium that addresses single-use food packaging waste globally 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, The Coca-Cola Company, Yum! Brands, Nestlé, and Wendy’s are supporting partners. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is the advisory partner and IDEO is the innovation partner. Learn more at www.nextgenconsortium.com.

About Georgia-Pacific
Based in Atlanta, Georgia-Pacific and its subsidiaries are among the world’s leading manufacturers and marketers of bath tissue, paper towels and napkins, tableware, paper-based packaging, cellulose, specialty fibers, nonwoven fabrics, building products and related chemicals. Our familiar consumer brands include Quilted Northern®, Angel Soft®, Brawny®, Dixie®, enMotion®, Sparkle®, Mardi Gras® and Vanity Fair®. Georgia-Pacific has long been a leading supplier of building products to lumber and building materials dealers and large do-it-yourself warehouse retailers. Its Georgia-Pacific Recycling subsidiary is among the world’s largest recyclers of paper, metal and plastics. The company operates more than 150 facilities and employs more than 30,000 people directly and creates approximately 89,000 jobs indirectly. For more information, visit: gp.com.

SOURCE Georgia-Pacific

Related Links
http://www.gp.com

Closed Loop Partners at the United States Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Recycling

By Bridget Croke

June 19, 2020

Launched in 2014, Closed Loop Partners (CLP) is the first investment firm primarily focused on building the circular economy. Our vision is to help build a new economic model focused on a profitable and sustainable future that aligns the interests of shareholders, brands and local communities and the environment that we all share. Closed Loop Partners provides equity and project finance to scale products, services and infrastructure at the forefront of the development of a circular economy. We have over the past 5 years built a development system that connects entrepreneurs, industry experts, global consumer goods companies, retailers, financial institutions and municipalities.

On June 17, 2020, Bridget Croke, Managing Director, at Closed Loop Partners spoke at the United States Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as they held a hearing on “Responding to the Challenges Facing Recycling in the United States.” The following text is drawn from her testimony. 

Today, we have over 40 investments in companies and municipal projects in the United States, all focused on helping Americans avoid landfill disposal fees while generating good jobs in the recycling and manufacturing sector.  Our investors are a combination of some of the largest American based consumer brands in the world including 3M, Coca-Cola, Colgate Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, Keurig Dr. Pepper, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and The Walmart Foundation, as well as the American Beverage Association, institutional investors, family offices and environmental foundations.  CLP proves that public–private partnerships are critical to unlocking the capital needed to build robust recycling and circular economy infrastructure needed to create jobs, reduce waste and build the supply chains of the future.

Despite some of the headlines we’ve all seen, recycling is big business in America and should create the manufacturing feedstock for future packaging. In 2019, the recycling industry in America generated over $110 billion in economic activity, $13 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue and 530,000 jobs.  In spite of COVID and market challenges in recent years, 2020 is shaping up to be a year of major innovations in the recycling industry as it becomes central to circular economy business models that major consumer goods companies and cities are deploying. Transitioning US manufacturing to circular supply chains could unlock a $2 trillion opportunity.

Recycling continues to be the most cost-effective option for the vast majority of American cities. The economics are simple. Cities have two choices when it comes to disposal: recycle or landfill. While the value of recycling is generally reported as the amount that a city can be paid for its recyclables, the core economic value of recycling is actually the opportunity for a city to avoid costly landfill disposal fees.  Economic analysis conducted has shown that the U.S. scrap recycling industry is a major economic engine powerful enough to create 531,510 jobs and generate $12.9B in tax revenue for governments across the US.

New York City, the largest market in the United States, is an example of how advanced recycling infrastructure and strong local markets create long term profits. New York City has a long-term public-private partnership with Pratt Industries that converts all of its recycled paper locally into new paper products sold back into the NYC market. Via its contract with Pratt, New York City is paid for every ton of paper its residents recycle, as opposed to a cost of over $100 per ton to send paper, plastics and metals to a landfill.

Minneapolis is another good example. Eureka Recycling and the City of Minneapolis invested in local community outreach focused on keeping their recycling stream clean of contamination, defined as non-recyclable material. The result is one of the lowest contamination rates of any municipal recycling program in the country. With a clean stream of valuable recyclables, Eureka consistently shares with Minneapolis the profits earned from the sale of their recyclables. In many other cities, unfortunately, approximately 15% of the material that arrives at the municipal recycling facility is considered contamination. Municipal recycling programs that keep contaminants out of the recycling stream via strong community outreach or enforcement realize lower costs and better revenue opportunities. Municipalities that recognize that recycling is part of the commodities industry, not the waste industry, generate value.

Along with the examples of Pratt Industries in New York City and Eureka Recycling in Minneapolis, Recology in San Francisco and Balcones in Austin, among others, continue to provide their municipal and commercial customers robust recycling service. In addition, municipalities like Pensacola, Florida and Davenport, Iowa that manage their own best in class recycling facilities consistently reduce landfill disposal costs and create local economic value for their constituents.

The value of recyclable commodities continues to have a wide range. The cost to process municipal recyclables at a recycling facility is, on average, $70 per ton. That means that for a recyclable commodity to have value, it must have a market that pays the recycling facility over $70 per ton of that material. A sample of the commodities that are usually profitable to recycle include PET plastic (beverage containers), HPDE plastic (laundry detergent and soap containers), rigid polypropylene (bottle caps, some yogurt containers), cardboard and aluminum.

In 2020, three innovations are driving the increased profit potential of recycling in America and the development of a vibrant and growing Circular Economy.

  1. The introduction of robotics and artificial intelligence. The future of the industry will be led by the recycling facilities that produce the highest quality commodity bales of materials. Companies like AMP Robotics have introduced robotics (robots) with artificial intelligence systems that enable the sorting and production of high-quality commodity bales, supply chain tracking and safeguards against contamination that were never before imagined in the industry.
  2. Packaging innovation. We are seeing the emergence and growth of smart refillable packaging systems like Algramo that makes it cheaper and more convenient for consumers to use packaging more than one time.  We are also seeing a growth in packaging that is designed to be recycled for value.  Temperpack, for example, is a packaging technology that uses recycled cardboard to keep packaged food cold, replacing a significant amount of low value plastics like Styrofoam peanuts, which are both not recyclable and a common contaminant in the recycling system.
  3. Advanced plastics recycling technologies, including purification technologies and chemical recycling technologies. Purification is an enzymatic process that improves the quality of recycled plastics so they can more easily be used again in packaging.  P&G invented a technology and helped launch a company, PureCycle Technologies, that will significantly increase the value of recycled plastic by removing color and smells. Chemical recycling is a process whereby plastic is depolymerized back to the base monomer, intermediary or carbon state in order to remanufacture a new plastic. Some plastics, like PET, HDPE and rigid polypropylene have significant value and are very profitable for the recycling industry, but they can degrade after a number of recycling cycles while some other plastics currently have limited value or are challenging to recycle. Chemical recycling has the potential to create an infinite circular economy value loop for all plastics. Some of the leading innovators are backed by major consumer goods companies. In 2020, we expect a number of emerging companies to move from pilot to commercialization phase.

These and other circular advancements are attracting significant private capital from leading investors. The industry saw investments from leading investors across asset classes. Google and Sequoia invested in AMP Robotics, Goldman Sachs is now the largest shareholder in Lakeshore Recycling Systems, Citi is largest investor in rPlanet Earth, a bottle-to-bottle plastics recycling facility in California and SJF Ventures invested in TemperPack.

The emerging leadership demonstrated by a number of retailers and consumer brands is driving the growth of the circular economy and improvements in recycling. Leadership means designing products and packaging that are free of any non-recyclable material and profitable for recycling. These packages are manufactured with recycled content, while reducing raw material inputs. Brands are telling their consumers that their commitment is to use recycled content in their packaging. Leaders are transparent in their progress, reporting in their annual reports the use of different recycled feedstocks. They know that any product or package that is not recyclable is destined for a landfill (or even worse, a river or ocean), and that cost is passed to the taxpayer.

Walmart has developed design for recycling guidelines for their suppliers to ensure the products sold in their stores are recyclable and piloting refillable packaging models.  Unilever’s Seventh Generation Brand uses mostly recycled HDPE plastic in its packaging and recycled paper in its paper products.   And over 10 global companies have invested over $150m in CLP’s investment funds so together we can help spur more innovation and create more tons of recycled feedstock coming through systems in the US.

We are also seeing a major trend amongst consumer goods companies looking to increase their use of recyclable material in the packaging and products they sell. It makes sense. At scale, along with the considerable environmental benefits, it should be less expensive for companies to manufacture using recycled material. That is why most major beverage companies including Coca-Cola, Keurig Dr. Pepper, PepsiCo, Nestle and Danone as well as the world’s largest consumer goods companies such as P&G, Unilever and Colgate Palmolive are publicly communicating aggressive goals for the use of recycled materials in their products and packaging.

For Americans, recycling is a matter of economic self-interest. Recycling our cardboard, paper, beverage bottles, rigid plastics containers, and aluminum cans has three important outcomes. First, it reduces the cost to manufacture the products we buy. Second, it reduces the amount of our taxpayer dollars used every year to pay landfills. Third, it generates revenue for our communities via the sale of recyclable commodities. A recent analysis reported the average cost to dispose of a ton of municipal waste in the US in 2019 was $55 per ton, and disposal fees in some states average more than $100 per ton.

Despite these economic incentives, large parts of the United States still have little or no recycling collection or processing infrastructure. Much of the economic activity generated by recycling is accomplished by long standing recycling programs on the West and East Coast as well as the upper Mid-West of America. For those who live in parts of the country with limited or no recycling infrastructure, their tax dollars are wasted on the cost of sending valuable commodities to landfill that could otherwise be sold. While the 90m tons currently recycled in the United States saves American taxpayers and businesses over $3 billion annually in landfill disposal fees, over 180 million tons of recyclable materials are landfilled, costing American taxpayers and businesses over $5 billion annually in landfills fees. We are literally throwing money in the garbage.

It is also important to recognize how China, which has received much press as of late for their role in the American recycling ecosystem, impacts the industry. For much of the past 20 years, the U.S. recycling industry was dependent on China as the leading export market. As consumption and waste has increased in China, the Chinese government has decided to develop their own domestic recycling infrastructure. This may cause some short-term pain in some parts of the United States’ recycling industry, but leading companies in the recycling industry, consumer goods and packaging industry, as well as a number of investors, see this as an opportunity to further develop and profit from domestic recycling and manufacturing infrastructure.

These are exciting times in the recycling industry as the development of the circular economy continues to expand. Major innovations are entering the industry ranging from robotics to supply chain mapping to advanced technologies that recycle plastics. Like any major industry analysis in the U.S., there is no one or two cities that should be extrapolated to define the industry. There are cities where recycling is profitable and a major economic engine and there are cities where the recycling program is struggling. What is clear is that the cities that focus on limiting contamination in their recycling program, build efficient and effective material recovery facilities and who contract with best in class recycling companies benefit from recycling programs that are both profitable and produce good local jobs.

Leading municipalities, recyclers, manufactures and brands are starting to partner together to establish, and profit from, a circular economy in the United States where goods are continually manufactured using recycled material from local recycling programs. This partnership in developing a circular economy will result in one of the largest investment opportunities in the United States over the next decade, major reduction in landfill disposal fee paid by municipalities, and become a primary driver of job creation in local economies.

We encourage policy makers to build incentives and develop policy to spur the market for recycled content and product and system innovation that reduces waste, creates jobs and makes recycled content competitive with the raw material market.