How the Inflation Reduction Act Will Accelerate the Case for Investing in the Circular Economy in the United States

By Aly Bryan

August 18, 2022

Earlier this week, the United States Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the most sweeping collection of climate change-related programs in decades. The bill is being heralded as helping to get the U.S. back on track with the country’s Paris Agreement commitments––among these, limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, with an agreement to aim for a 1.5 degree Celsius limit.

With 70% of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production and use of products, this bill will also have sweeping implications for the transition to the circular economy. As a leader in the earliest stages of circular economy investing, Closed Loop Ventures Group (CLVG) set out to identify the primary ways the IRA will accelerate the transition to a climate-positive future with circularity at its core:

  1. The IRA may provide an accelerant for new, circular markets domestically

To advance a much-needed renewable energy transition, the IRA directly encourages investments in solar and wind generating assets and energy efficiency upgrades in commercial and residential buildings. These new installations will not only require ample raw material – they will also accelerate the need for end-of-life solutions for energy infrastructure being replaced or systems being repowered. In solar, for example, annual capacity additions are expected to increase from 10 GW in 2020 to nearly 50 GW per year in 2025-6.[1]

As supply chain constraints continue, especially for products sourced from challenging geopolitical climates, recovering materials already in use will become increasingly desirable – and economically viable. This is a huge opportunity for companies focused on effective, at-scale reclamation and recycling – such as CLVG’s portfolio company, SOLARCYCLE. SOLARCYCLE is focused on recovering solar panel materials for resale, ultimately providing materials that can be sourced into new, domestic manufacturing.

Many of the tax credits introduced or expanded by the IRA have specific provisions related to domestic manufacturing – including for electric vehicle batteries. As domestic manufacturing scales to take advantage of these tailwinds, access to low-cost, locally sourced input materials, including those that are reclaimed from the value chain, will be paramount. This creates opportunities for companies focused on recovery of hard-to-recycle materials that can be incentivized with IRA rebates or credits – everything from battery materials to boilers and air conditioners, insulation, roofing and windows. Early-stage companies that are seeking scalable solutions for recovery and reuse across these markets may capitalize on opportunities from the legislation.

Not only does the IRA amplify the need for companies that can help reclaim products at end-of-life, but it also reinforces the opportunity for low-carbon, circular solutions for energy-intensive industries – such as steel, iron, concrete, glass and chemical production. Indeed, nearly $5B in capital is allocated to continue the push for low-carbon building materials, especially in public infrastructure projects. This is following on previous Executive Orders related to net-zero government procurement which aspire toward net-zero public procurement by 2050, including for carbon-intense materials like steel and concrete.[2]– To date, there are few – if any – commercial scale, low-carbon solutions for much of this procurement, meaning significant innovation will be needed in the coming years to make at-scale, carbon neutral production possible.

Beyond investment in renewables, the bill also has provisions that seek to enable investment into waste-to-energy and biogas operations, including expansions and modifications to existing tax credits. This creates opportunities for new, waste-generated, clean energy sources. Green hydrogen, which can be produced from waste biomass and other reclaimed sources, is well positioned with additional production tax credits. Through provisions for residential homeowners, home energy efficiency upgrades for electric heat pumps or window replacements can be much more accessible, even creating opportunities to bundle with circularity-enabling products like home anaerobic digesters, such as those developed by CLVG’s portfolio company, HomeBiogas. The biogas company creates modular household and commercial anaerobic digester units that convert food and organic waste into renewable energy and liquid fertilizer.

  1. The IRA may facilitate environmental remediation on an unprecedented scale

The bill is heavily focused on the identification and remediation of pollution to air, water and soil systems, as well as the fortification of soil and water for the future – including a specific focus on ports. CLVG’s portfolio company, Accelerated Filtration, supports this mandate by offering fine particle filtration across a range of industries and applications, helping reduce the flow of wastewater into the environment. Nonetheless, there continue to be pollutants – PFAS and 1,4 dioxane among them – that do not yet have commercialized solutions for remediation. More innovations are needed to mitigate the future risk of all types of pollutants leaching into the environment upon disposal.

Additionally, more than $20B is provided in the IRA to support the uptake of sustainable agricultural practices, including regenerative farming solutions and financing for innovations that can improve conditions for livestock raising. The question of how best to engage farmers on these topics continues to be top-of-mind – after all, the intent is to create a win-win situation, where farmers can both increase profits and enhance the quality of the land that they are growing on for today and the future. Ucrop.it, a CLVG portfolio company, has developed a novel solution to this problem with a free platform that fully tracks crops throughout the development cycle, leveraging blockchain to prove the application of climate-positive agriculture practices, which flows through to customers, enabling full transparency and traceability. Companies innovating upstream in the food and agriculture value chains – from soil health and vertical farming to livestock management, have a strong dual mandate that is reinforced by the innovation capital in the bill.

  1. The IRA may allow for other enablers of circularity – notably, financing

There continues to be more demand than supply of financing for circularity-enabling solutions to accelerate a climate-positive future. In particular, asset-heavy solutions that require commercialization of large-scale manufacturing or materials recovery facilities find it difficult to scale from pilot stage. This is yet another space in which the IRA is helping to close gaps and accelerate progress on circularity. By providing additional capital – in the form of grants, loans and concessionary capital – through national labs, the Department of Energy LPO, and even the formation of a Federal Green Bank, the IRA may enhance the dry powder available for early-stage climate tech and circularity-enabling solutions that accelerate our progress toward a climate-positive future. Closed Loop Partners continues to be energized about the crowding in of additional capital into the earliest stages of the space to facilitate the transition to a fully circular ecosystem––one that brings us closer to achieving our shared climate goals.

 

[1] https://repeatproject.org/docs/REPEAT_IRA_Prelminary_Report_2022-08-04.pdf

[2] https://www.sustainability.gov/federalsustainabilityplan/procurement.html

How Local Counties are Driving the Future of U.S. Recycling – and Why More Investment is Needed 

By Bea Miñana

August 17, 2022

Situated in the northwest corner of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, next to Lake Superior, Marquette County has been busy building a recycling system that works. For years, the County faced low participation rates in their recycling collection program that fed a dual-stream recycling system: one where residents had to sort recyclables themselves. Confusion among residents about what could be recycled, coupled with a facility that lacked capacity, challenged the viability of the system.  

In 2021, Marquette County’s Solid Waste Management Authority (MCSWMA) decided to make a big change: upgrading its materials recovery facility (MRF) from a 1,500-ton-per-year dual-stream facility that could only serve Marquette County residents, to an 8,500-ton-per year – and growing – regional single-stream installation. The single-stream system meant that residents could put all materials in one recycling bin, since the facility could sort the recyclables instead. The larger capacity also meant that the program could serve not only Marquette County, but also other counties’ residential and commercial recycling. Partially funded through a $3 million interest-free loan from Closed Loop Partners’ Infrastructure Fund, the facility upgrade led to dramatic increases in recycling rates, improving the likelihood of materials being kept in the loop for longer, and locally. This kickstarted an improved recycling system for the County. But as Michigan’s recycling landscape rapidly changes, continued funding is needed if Marquette County’s recycling system is to evolve with it.   

What Michigan’s recycling looks like today  

Michigan is focused on developing its local economy through new manufacturing and industry – tied to its goal of building sustainable communities. Ensuring that there is robust access to recycling across the state, including processing capacity to manage the increased and changing materials flows, is a core part of this vision. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the state Legislature are committed to raising Michigan’s recycling rate to 30% by 2025 and 45% by 2030, exceeding the national recycling rate of 32%. Achieving this goal requires investment across the recycling value chain – financing and supporting the scale of collection, ensuring that there is adequate capacity locally to process and sort these materials, and strengthening local end markets. Ensuring that materials are sorted and processed locally also lends itself to the state achieving greenhouse gas emissions goals, a key step to climate change mitigation.

Amidst the state’s constantly evolving materials landscape, even the most recently constructed or upgraded MRFs may be challenged to keep pace. High contamination rates continue to plague U.S. recycling systems. Materials that should not end up in the mix cause significant wear and tear on the equipment, in turn requiring regular investments from operators. Investments to fund capital equipment, technology and education are needed to ensure that a recycling system is operating optimally – keeping valuable resources in circulation and out of landfills and natural ecosystems. For Marquette County specifically, based on its facility’s design and the challenges and cost to hire manual sorters, investment in optical sorting technology is critical to moving forward. These could cost approximately $500,000 per unit, not including any potential retrofits needed. 

How Marquette County is making waves in the recycling system  

Operating with deep local roots, MCSWMA has actively sought ways to maximize the value of materials that are otherwise viewed as waste. In a state where landfill tip fees are relatively low, the County has been committed to identifying opportunities to reduce tons of material sent to landfill. This includes finding innovative ways to engage the public and raise awareness on contamination issues, especially those of biohazard waste that places their staff and team at risk.  

As a strong advocate for expanding residential recycling access, MCSWMA has also enabled discussions on recycling access at local and regional government levels. By delivering state and other recycling infrastructure grant opportunities to their municipalities and assisting in the grant process, MCSWMA was able to deploy over 10,000 recycling carts in Marquette County, improving access to their recycling program. They have also played a critical role in advancing recycling education, with their website becoming a regional resource for recycling participants. Building on these milestones, they are now working with the regional planning commission to determine ways to continuously improve recycling education, access and participation in the area. 

Collaboration between Marquette County and its neighboring counties has also been commendable. In fact, most of the tons processed at the County’s MRF is from out-of-county communities, and the team continues to strive to be a best-in-class hub for recycling in the region. The upgrade to a single-stream MRF was intended not only to serve the County’s 65,000 residents, but potentially the entire region’s population of approximately 200,000.  

In May of this year, Marquette County was given an Excellence in Recycling award from the Michigan Recycling Coalition for all their work. Additionally, they are a finalist for Resource Recycling’s Recycling Program of the Year, for counties with 150,000 or less residents. Today, they are continuing their work, strengthening infrastructure to push more materials to their MRF, and ensure valuable materials are pulled through the system. They are currently partnered with Michigan Tech University (MTU) on a proposed molecular recycling project, which could help process more challenging-to-recycle plastic materials on site in Marquette County, utilizing technology developed by MTU.  

“Previously, limited or no access to recycling and the lack of sufficient infrastructure resulted in recyclable materials being landfilled in Upper Michigan. We anticipate increased landfill diversion rates as more Upper Peninsula counties seek infrastructure funding to increase access to recycling services,” said Brad Austin, Director of Operations of the Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority.  

Why invest in Marquette County 

Marquette County represents an important local solution to diverting valuable recyclable materials from Michigan landfills, and can serve as a blueprint for other similar programs across the U.S. The team that manages the County’s MRF, including Brad Austin, Director of Operations, is committed to building out a robust recycling system in the region.  

Today, the momentum of investments into Marquette County is strong. Closed Loop Partners’ Infrastructure Fund, following its initial loan to the County, continues to build upon their partnership, closing their second (follow-on) loan to the MCSWMA in May 2022. The Infrastructure Fund’s second loan to the MCSWMA supported the purchase of a new eddy current that will not only improve the county’s mixed plastics bales as commodity markets near historically high prices for such materials, but will also allow the County to separate out valuable non-ferrous metals such as aluminum that are also able to command high prices in today’s markets.  

Beyond the financing received from Closed Loop Partners, the MCSWMA has continued to identify grant funding sources to support smaller upgrades. However, the facility has grown much quicker than anticipated, and significant funding gaps still exist for the kinds of upgrades the facility now needs. This includes additional tipping floor and commodity storage space to enhance operational flexibility, and increase opportunities to recover and market additional commodities like aseptic cartons. Optical sorting technologies, and the construction associated with installing these, is also needed to maximize efficiency and complement their sorter staff. Ultimately, investments in these types of upgrades can bring the County closer to its goal of operating an efficient facility at capacity. 

To date, investment in the County’s recycling infrastructure has proven to be a critical driver to a more efficient and resilient local recycling system. If Marquette County is to stay at the forefront of recycling, and play a key role in Michigan’s recycling goals, more capital needs to be catalyzed into the County’s recycling infrastructure to drive continued impact.  

Interested in learning more about Marquette County? Contact Brad Austin at [email protected] 

Closed Loop Partners Pledges up to $5 Million to Support Innovations from RRS NextCycle Initiative

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April 11, 2022

Closed Loop Partners, through its Closed Loop Infrastructure Group, pledges support to Resource Recycling Systems’ (RRS) NextCycle, a customizable accelerator-style program that facilitates connections and nurtures innovation to create circular economies.

Closed Loop Partners, a circular economy-focused investment firm and innovation center, will work collaboratively with participating states in the NextCycle initiative – currently Colorado, Michigan, and Washington – to identify opportunities to provide competitively priced and flexible financing to organizations and municipalities, up to $5 million per project.

RRS, a sustainable material and resource consulting firm, manages and facilitates NextCycle. Selected teams in the NextCycle initiative receive access to business, industry, and investment experts to develop project plans, make connections with partners and funders, and cultivate investment-ready and implementation-ready projects.

“For a circular economy to be robust and economically sustainable it needs a continuous flow of recycled materials, a viable recycling infrastructure, and accessible end markets,” said Jim Frey, RRS co-founder and CEO. “By leveraging state funds and accelerating the flow of private and non-profit capital into projects focused on infrastructure, technology, and supply chains, we can help mobilize recycling efforts in NextCycle states.”

Initially, this partnership will support innovative recycling projects in three NextCycle markets – Colorado, Michigan, and Washington. Each state, through its NextCycle initiative, will identify projects that develop recovery infrastructure solutions for post-consumer recyclable materials with a focus on polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and aluminum, optimize innovative collection systems for polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), and divert from landfill back into the supply chain. Over the next three years of partnership, Closed Loop Partners will closely collaborate with the various NextCycle initiatives, identifying investable opportunities that advance collective circularity goals.

“Building a robust circular economy requires multiple stakeholders to be at the table. Closed Loop Partners is thrilled to collaborate with RRS and NextCycle to help identify and accelerate the most promising solutions,” said Jennifer Louie, Executive Director at Closed Loop Partners. “This partnership will continue to drive innovation and develop equitable local economies, while keeping valuable materials in play and out of landfills.”

Since 2014, Closed Loop Partners has invested in circular innovations, with an existing portfolio of more than 50 investments that have collectively diverted more than 4,600 million pounds of material from landfills and back into manufacturing supply chains. The firm’s Closed Loop Infrastructure Group deploys catalytic capital across a range of circular economy projects, companies, infrastructure and enabling technologies. Past investments include a recycling facility expansion and upgrade that included the first artificial intelligence-powered material sorting robots aimed at improving efficiency in Emmet County, Michigan, as well as a new single-stream recycling facility estimated to process thousands of tons of recyclables per year in rural Marquette County, Michigan.

More information on NextCycle can be found on the RRS website: RRS NextCycle.

 

 


 

About Closed Loop Partners 

Closed Loop Partners is a New York-based investment firm comprised of venture capital, growth equity, private equity and catalytic capital, as well as an innovation center focused on building the circular economy. 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 at www.closedlooppartners.com. 

 

About Closed Loop Infrastructure Group 

Closed Loop Partners’ Infrastructure Group provides a flexible mix of financing solutions to support a range of circular economy projects, companies, infrastructure and enabling technologies. The Closed Loop Infrastructure Group deploys catalytic capital, which seeks to accelerate and de-risk the development of high-impact projects and companies. The Group manages four active funds: the Closed Loop Infrastructure Fund, Closed Loop Beverage Fun, Closed Loop Circular Plastics Fund and Closed Loop Local Recycling Fund. Learn more here 

About RRS 

Founded in 1986 and headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, RRS is a sustainability and recycling consulting firm that strives to create a world where resources are managed to maximize economic and social benefit while minimizing environmental harm. The firm has industry professionals, engineers, economists, technical analysts, and communication specialists who share this vision and possess core strengths in materials and recovery, life cycle management, applied sustainable design, and collaborative action development. www.recycle.com

 

Source: RRS

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.

$4.2M in Grants Awarded to Improve Polypropylene Curbside Recycling for Nearly 15 Million Americans

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August 23, 2021

In less than one year, The Recycling Partnership’s Polypropylene Recycling Coalition awarded grants to 13 recycling facilities to increase recycling access by nearly 6%.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (Aug.24, 2021) – The Recycling Partnership today announced a third round of grant funding through its Polypropylene Recycling Coalition, distributing an additional $1.8 million in catalytic grants to advance polypropylene recycling and reduce plastic waste in the U.S. Launched just one year ago, the Coalition has awarded grants that will improve curbside polypropylene recycling access for nearly 6% of all U.S. households. These grants will positively impact nearly 15 million Americans through grants to 13 facilities totaling $4.2 million to date. The Coalition is a cross-industry effort supported by steering committee members Keurig Dr Pepper, Braskem, NextGen Consortium, and the Walmart Foundation, along with other members of the polypropylene value chain.

Polypropylene, sometimes referred to as PP or No. 5 plastic, is used in an array of food and non-food packaging and is in strong demand as a recycled material. Through its third round of grant funding, the Coalition will provide six grants to Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) across the U.S. to boost sortation of polypropylene and support targeted consumer education efforts. To date, the Coalition has awarded grants across the U.S. to increase the recovery of polypropylene by an estimated 13 million pounds annually to be made into new products, such as consumer packaging and automotive parts, rather than being sent to landfills, incineration, and into the environment.  The widespread interest and commitment from MRFs across the U.S. to increase the collection and sortation of recyclable polypropylene clearly demonstrates the market strength for this material nationwide and has catalyzed more than $10 million in additional private investments in polypropylene sortation within U.S. MRFs.

“In just one year, the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition has led the way to rapidly drive significant, measurable change to improve and increase the capture of polypropylene in U.S. curbside recycling,” said Sarah Dearman, Vice President of Circular Ventures, The Recycling Partnership. “The Recycling Partnership is proud to lead the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition and its meaningful work that is inspiring industry investment, supporting jobs, preserving natural resources, and activating the transition to a circular economy in the United States.”

The Coalition makes grants to MRF candidates that face challenges in their ability to effectively sort and recycle polypropylene. According to recent studies of U.S. recycling access, just under 60% of Americans have access to recycling polypropylene. With the Coalition’s strategic grants, it is estimated curbside acceptance of polypropylene will increase by nearly 6% once all equipment is installed by early 2022. This will result in more No. 5 plastic being sent to established end markets and encouraging the shift to a circular economy. Consumers in these areas will also be educated as to what is and isn’t accepted in their curbside recycling.

Domestic reclaimers and re-processors further along the PP value chain acknowledge the supply signals sent by the Coalition’s MRF grants. In response, many made investments to prepare for processing the increased supply of this material for returning it to domestic end markets. Coalition members alone with reclamation and reprocessing facilities made more than $32 million in investments over the past year to increase polypropylene reclamation capacity by nearly 800 million pounds within their North American facilities. Additional reclamation and reprocessing investments are planned or underway for 2022, as multimillion dollar infrastructure investments are still needed.

The geographic reach of the first three rounds of Coalition MRF grantees includes the Northeast, Southeast, Upper Midwest, South Central, and West Coast regions, including California. The Coalition received a strong response to each of the three prior requests for proposals and continues to accept grant applications to further its efforts to advance polypropylene curbside recycling. The next grant proposal request is due Sept. 30, 2021.  MRFs interested in sorting and recycling polypropylene are encouraged to apply.

The six newest grantees are:

  • Green Waste, San Jose, Calif.
  • Murphy Road, Berlin, Conn.
  • Palm Beach County, Fla.
  • Pellitteri, Madison, Wis.
  • Sonoco-Raleigh, Raleigh, N.C.
  • Sonoco-Onslow, Jacksonville, N.C.

 

The mission-driven work of the Coalition is supported by contributions from organizations representing all segments of the polypropylene value chain, including the Coalition’s newest members, Advanced Drainage Systems, Berry Global, Plastic Ingenuity, and PureCycle. In addition to the aforementioned steering committee members, other members of the Coalition include Campbell Soup Company, EFS-plastics, The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, KW Plastics, LyondellBasell, Merlin Plastics, Milliken & Company, Nestlé, PolyQuest, Procter & Gamble, Sabert Corporation, St. Joseph Plastics, and Winpak. The Coalition is advised by industry leaders, including Association of Plastic Recyclers, former EPA Administrator Carol Browner, Closed Loop Partners, Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, Sustainable Packaging Coalition, and World Wildlife Fund.

The Coalition is part of The Recycling Partnership’s Pathway to Circularity, an initiative creating scalable solutions to packaging and system challenges to accelerate the shift to a circular economy that uses fewer finite resources.

To learn more about the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition, its members, and how to get involved in supporting its goals, visit recyclingpartnership.org/polypropylene-coalition. For MRFs interested in applying for a grant, the application is available on our website.

 

About The Recycling Partnership

The Recycling Partnership is the action agent transforming the U.S. residential recycling system for good. Our team operates at every level of the recycling value chain and works on the ground with thousands of communities to transform underperforming recycling programs and tackle circular economy challenges. As the leading organization in the country that engages the full recycling supply chain, from working with companies to make their packaging more circular and help them meet climate and sustainability goals, to working with government to develop policy solutions to address the systemic needs of the U.S. recycling system, The Recycling Partnership positively impacts recycling at every step in the process. Since 2014, the nonprofit change agent diverted 375 million pounds of new recyclables from landfills, saved 968 million gallons of water, avoided more than 420,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, and drove significant reductions in targeted contamination rates. Learn more at recyclingpartnership.org

SK Global Chemical Invests $10 Million with Closed Loop Partners to Scale Best-in-Class Plastics Recycling Solutions & Catalyze the Shift Toward a Circular Economy

By

July 27, 2021

With a rapidly evolving plastics industry and increasingly urgent climate challenges, SK Global Chemical joins leaders Dow, LyondellBasell & NOVA Chemicals, among others, in paving differentiated and globally sustainable ways forward for the industry

July 27, 2021, New York – Today, SK Global Chemical (SKGC) announced their investment in two of Closed Loop Partners’ funds––the Closed Loop Circular Plastics Fund and the Closed Loop Leadership Fund––to advance circular business models, scalable recycling technologies, and materials recovery infrastructure in the U.S. and Canada. Their investment will help increase the supply of high-quality recycled content to meet growing demand, return valuable materials to manufacturing supply chains and ultimately reduce extraction of virgin resources. SKGC and Closed Loop Partners’ collaboration is a critical step in demonstrating what the future of a fully circular plastics system could look like and sending a market signal to others to spur recycling markets that must mature more quickly.

“Plastics manufacturers play a key role in building circular systems for plastics––they are at the early stages of the supply chain, helping determine the quality, sustainability and recyclability of the plastics that flow through the entire system. It’s critical that these stakeholders adapt to the changing times and expectations; antiquated business models that rely on virgin plastics are no longer viable when confronted with limited natural resources and mounting plastic waste,” says Ron Gonen, Founder & CEO of Closed Loop Partners. “SK Global Chemical’s investment in our funds helps catalyze circular plastics supply chains in the U.S. and Canada, while also providing for the exchange of best practices with Asia, accelerating a circular economy at a much larger scale.”

SKGC’s investment with Closed Loop Partners builds on their ‘Zero Plastic Waste’ goals and efforts to bolster innovations across the plastics recycling system. Under their “Green For Better Life” strategy, SKGC continues to grow plastics recycling capacity globally. The company aims to recycle 900 thousand tons of plastic waste per year by 2025, lower their use of plastics, and make all of its products eco-friendly, by 2027. SKGC has formed strategic partnerships with cutting-edge advanced plastics recycling companies in North America, invested on-the-ground in new facilities that transform plastic waste into virgin-like plastics, and continues to optimize mechanical recycling infrastructure to reduce overall virgin plastic consumption. One of the reasons SKGC chose to collaborate with Closed Loop Partners is to expand its connections to a roster of leading companies working toward the circular economy, comprising both multinationals with extensive scale and emerging innovators introducing differentiated sustainable solutions.  Their investment with Closed Loop Partners aligns with ambitions of their parent company, SK Innovation, to transition from  “carbon to green” by investing more than $20 billion in five years.

SKGC’s investment in Closed Loop Partners’ Circular Plastics Fund, launched in May with Founding Investors Dow, LyondellBasell and NOVA Chemicals, brings the Fund closer to its goal of deploying $100 million to advance the recovery of plastics in the U.S. and Canada. The Fund’s catalytic strategy fills investment gaps to spur recycling markets, attracting additional corporate investors and financial institutions and accelerating capital inflows beyond the Fund’s own commitments. The Fund will invest in three strategic areas to increase the amount of high-quality recycled plastic available:

  • Access – Increasing the collection of targeted polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) plastics by advancing current and next-generation material collection systems, including transportation, logistics and recycling sortation technologies and infrastructure.
  • Optimization – Upgrading recycling systems to more efficiently aggregate, classify and sort the targeted plastics to increase the total amount of high-quality plastic, including food-grade and medical-grade plastic, sent for remanufacturing.
  • Manufacturing – Investing in facilities and equipment that manufacture finished products, packaging or related goods using recycled content, including recycled PE and PP.

The Closed Loop Leadership Fund, Closed Loop Partners’ private equity arm, is a complementary market rate strategy that proves the growth and profitability of circular economy business models. The Fund acquires and scales best-in-class companies along the value chain to build circular supply chains in the U.S.––focused on extending the useful life of materials, including plastics and packaging, organics, electronics and apparel. The Fund’s value creation strategy focuses on driving resilient profitability for businesses that optimize supply chains, keep materials out of landfill and advance the circular economy.

Since its founding in 2014, Closed Loop Partners has made more than 50 investments, diverting more than 4,600 million pounds of material from landfills and back into manufacturing supply chains. The New York-based investment firm and innovation center accelerates the circular economy through a suite of solutions––including investments and research in design innovation that reduces material use and resource extraction, reuse systems that extend the useful life of valuable materials, and mechanical recycling infrastructure and advanced recycling technologies that together help recover plastics. Building on its proven track record, and extensive ecosystem of entrepreneurs, industry experts, global consumer goods companies, retailers, financial institutions and municipalities in North America, Closed Loop Partners is well positioned to form key partnerships and drive strategic investments to advance SKGC’s goals.

Na Kyung-soo, CEO of SK Global Chemical says, “We aim to build systems that keep plastics in circulation, meeting the needs of people around the world, without compromising the natural environment. Our investment with Closed Loop Partners not only helps us advance these goals, but opens doors to new strategic partnerships with leading companies that share the same vision of advancing circular systems for plastics. As a plastics manufacturer, we recognize our responsibility in transforming plastics supply chains to collect and reuse existing materials, and know that collaborating across industries is essential to system-wide impact. We look forward to working with Closed Loop Partners and their network to drive toward our shared goals.”

In accordance with SKGC’s strategic imperatives, by 2025 SKGC will  invest  500 million USD to build a cutting edge advanced plastics recycling plant in Korea.

 

About Closed Loop Partners

Closed Loop Partners is a New York-based investment firm comprising 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. Learn more about Closed Loop Partners here.

About the Closed Loop Circular Plastics Fund at Closed Loop Partners

The Closed Loop Circular Plastics Fund provides catalytic financing to build circular economy infrastructure and improve the recovery of polypropylene and polyethylene plastic in the U.S. & Canada, returning plastics to more sustainable manufacturing supply chains for use as feedstock for future products and packaging. Learn more about the Fund’s investment criteria and apply for funding here.

About the Closed Loop Leadership Fund at Closed Loop Partners

The Closed Loop Leadership Fund is Closed Loop Partners’ market rate private equity fund, focused on acquiring and scaling best-in-class circular business models that are fundamental to keeping plastics and packaging, food and organics, electronics and textiles out of landfills and within a circular system. Learn more about the Closed Loop Leadership Fund here.

About SK Global Chemical

In 1972, SK global chemical laid the foundation for the development of the petrochemical industry by operating the first naphtha-cracking facility in Korea. They provide various automotive & packaging products and solutions required by customers and markets, and are growing into a technology-based global chemical company through continuous R&D efforts and global expansion.

SK global chemical will achieve its vision, ‘Green for Better Life’, by establishing a plastics-based circular economy, collaborating with various partners and stakeholders. They will expand their portfolio of eco-friendly products and will continuously recycle beyond the amount of plastics that they produce, in order to realize and leverage the sustainability efforts that will benefit our planet. Learn more about SKGC here.

Closed Loop Partners and ERI Enter Strategic Partnership to Strengthen Innovative Circular Economy Supply Chains

By

July 14, 2021

Closed Loop Partners makes a significant strategic investment in ERI; Founder & CEO Ron Gonen will join ERI’s Board

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–ERI, the nation’s largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company and Closed Loop Partners, the leading investment firm focused on building the circular economy in North America and beyond, have announced that they have entered into a partnership.

As part of the partnership, Closed Loop Partners’ Leadership Fund, part of the private equity group at Closed Loop Partners, has made a significant strategic investment in ERI. The Closed Loop Leadership Fund, established in 2019, focuses on investing in and scaling businesses fundamental to keeping packaging, organics, electronics and apparel out of landfills and within a circular system. Investors in the Fund include Microsoft, Nestlé and Unilever as well as institutional investors and family offices. Ron Gonen, Founder and CEO of Closed Loop Partners has also been elected to ERI’s board of directors.

“ERI is the leading recycler of electronics in the United States, consistently demonstrating the viability of closed loop systems for high value materials,” said Gonen. “Globally, we discard $55 billion in e-waste annually, and the waste stream is projected to grow more rapidly in the coming years, diverting these materials from landfills and back into manufacturing supply chains is critical. Our partnership with ERI will strengthen circular supply chains that ultimately benefit people, the planet and business.”

“This is the perfect time for a partnership between ERI and Closed Loop Partners,” said John Shegerian, ERI’s Chairman/CEO. “Due to a perfect storm of innovation, the internet of things, cars essentially becoming computers on wheels, an increase in wearable tech, the 4G to 5G switchover, increasing consumption, data privacy issues and other factors, e-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world – growing at a rate five times faster than any other waste stream. By partnering with our longtime friends at Closed Loop Partners, we are ideally positioned to play a meaningful role in accelerating change.”

“We are also honored to have Ron Gonen join our board,” added Shegerian. “It was Ron who introduced us to AMP Robotics, our partners in the development and implementation of our first-in-industry AI-driven robotic systems currently increasing operational efficiencies in our recycling facilities. He was also serving as Deputy Commissioner of Sanitation, Recycling and Sustainability for New York City when ERI teamed with the city to launch the city’s groundbreaking and award-winning residential e-waste pickup and recycling program, ecycleNYC. So there is tremendous synergy there. As a thought leader, Ron has already provided tremendous guidance and insight in terms of the circular economy and we are incredibly excited to be entering into this new level of collaboration with him and his team at Closed Loop Partners.”

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. Since its founding in 2014, Closed Loop Partners’ existing portfolio of more than 50 investments has diverted more than 4,600 million pounds of material from landfills and back into manufacturing supply chains. 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.

About ERI:

ERI is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the United States. ERI is certified at the highest level by all leading environmental and data security oversight organizations to de-manufacture, recycle, and refurbish every type of electronic device in an environmentally responsible manner. ERI has the capacity to process more than a billion pounds of electronic waste annually at its eight certified locations, serving every zip code in the United States. ERI’s mission is to protect people, the planet and privacy. For more information about e-waste recycling and ERI, call 1-800-ERI-DIRECT or visit https://eridirect.com.

Contacts

ERI: Paul Williams, 310/569-0023, [email protected]
Closed Loop Partners: Georgia Sherwin, 929/427-7786, [email protected]

What is the Role of Plastics in the Circular Economy?

By Ron Gonen

May 26, 2021

From lauded silver bullet to pariah material in just over half a century, plastic has played a complicated role in our economy. What began as an innovative material that was relatively inexpensive to produce, lightweight to transport, versatile in application and efficient in preserving goods, has resulted in 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics produced since the 1950s, half of which was produced in the past 15 years alone. Yet, while economies of scale drove down the cost to produce plastic, its costs showed up elsewhere––in the billions of tax dollars spent to send plastic to landfills, and in its degradation of our environment and communities. About 60% of plastics produced have already ended up in a landfill or the natural environment. At the rate we’re going, there could be more plastic than fish (by weight) in the ocean by 2050.

The plastics waste challenge makes clear the urgent need for us to identify a path toward a waste-free future. To achieve this ideal in the midst of today’s take-make-waste reality, a range of solutions need to be in play at the same time. To address plastic waste at every stage of the material’s life cycle––from source, to use, to end-of-life and back again––every stakeholder across the value chain must be involved. No one institution or solution can build the circular economy alone, and even if they could, change would not happen fast enough to address the urgent climate challenge. With any system-wide transformation, the path forward is complex, nuanced and involves experimentation. A collaborative, multifaceted approach can accelerate the process in a more thoughtful, holistic way. 

At Closed Loop Partners, we envision a circular future for plastics. This requires building a system that reduces the need to extract virgin resources––fossil fuels––to make plastics, harnesses design innovation and material science, and champions reuse models and new product delivery models. In parallel, we must strengthen the recycling infrastructure needed to capture existing plastics after use. With over 50 investments across our funds and three pre-competitive industry consortia to solve shared material challenges, led by our Center for the Circular Economy, we act across four key pillars to advance circular plastics supply chains.

1. Scale Reusable Products and Packaging and Explore New Materials to Reduce the Need for Single-Use Plastics
Our work to build the circular economy begins at the source, by rethinking the kinds and quantities of raw materials we use, and the supply chains they flow through. Reuse, refill and resale business models keep valuable materials in play, and therefore reduce the need to extract virgin resources. At the same time, material science innovations help diversify the resources we rely on to create packaging and products. For example, organic materials, including algae, mushrooms, eucalyptus, coconut fibers and corn that are rapidly replenishable and could be composted at end-of-life, represent viable alternatives to plastics for packaging and textiles. 

How do we do this?

Our Closed Loop Ventures Group invests in leading reuse and refill models, exemplified by our portfolio company, Algramo. The Chilean-based company entered the North American market in 2020, piloting their tech-enabled refill system and smart reusable packaging in New York City. Their vending machines allow customers to dispense household cleaning products by the gram, getting exactly the amount of product they need into a smart, reusable container, eliminating single-use plastic packaging. Algramo not only makes the sustainable option the most affordable alternative, but also the more accessible and convenient one.

At an even earlier stage, our innovation arm, the Center for the Circular Economy, tests emerging reusable packaging models through the NextGen Consortium and the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag. In 2020, our NextGen Consortium, in partnership with Starbucks, McDonald’s and other leading foodservice brands, conducted in-market tests for new reusable hot and cold cup models at local cafes in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Consortium examined every step of the reusable cup journey: from customer sign-up, to the payment process, to cup returns. Building on our learnings, we released a report on Bringing Reusable Packaging Systems to Life, an open-source resource that highlights steps for implementing reuse models. 

Our Center also researches climate-friendly material innovations like compostable packaging, as one viable solution to plastic waste when the necessary recovery systems are in place. The Center’s Compostable Packaging Consortium aims to create a decision-making framework on when to deploy compostable packaging, while building an investment roadmap to scale the composting infrastructure needed to handle these formats at their end-of-life.

2. Collaborate with Diverse Stakeholders to Accelerate Change at Scale
To move from a linear system to a circular one, every stakeholder that will be affected––including consumers, entrepreneurs, corporations, NGOs, cities, policymakers and governments––must be at the table. Creating systemic change requires collaboration across the value chain, inviting numerous perspectives and areas of expertise, and aligning on shared goals. 

How do we do this?

Last year, our Center formed the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, an unprecedented multi-sector effort by leading retailers, including CVS Health, Target and Walmart, to address a common material challenge: the single-use plastic bag. Brands across the grocery, sports & outdoor goods, value, apparel & home goods sectors aligned to address shared environmental and operational challenges to move beyond short-term fixes to long-lasting, systemic solutions for how customers get their goods home. In February 2021, nine winners of the Beyond the Bag innovation challenge were selected from a pool of more than 450 innovations, and are now testing and refining solutions to improve their potential to scale.

3. Invest in Recovery Infrastructure to Recapture and Recycle Plastics, and Reduce the Need to Extract Virgin Resources
The value of plastic is not lost after a single use; keeping the material within supply chains is a matter of our economic self-interest. As corporate commitments to use post-consumer recycled materials increase, the demand for recycled plastics continues to grow, enabling a viable market. Yet, without the necessary recovery infrastructure, current supplies of recycled plastics only meet 6% of demand for the most common plastics in the U.S. and Canada. Optimizing recycling facilities and new advanced recycling technologies, among others, can increase the supply of high-quality, clean recycled material feedstocks, maximize their value over multiple lifecycles and reduce our reliance on virgin inputs dependent on the extraction of fossil fuels.

How do we do this?

Our Closed Loop Infrastructure Fund, established when the firm was founded in 2014, has helped municipalities and private companies across North America upgrade and expand their recycling infrastructure for materials––from glass, to paper and plastic. For example, the fund provided a $3 million below-market rate loan to the City of Phoenix, to upgrade its recycling facility and enable greater diversion of plastics from landfill and improve the quality of baled paper produced. This helped the city’s materials recovery facility reach its highest revenue to date in May 2020, at over $400,000, with an 18% increase in tons of residential recycled materials collected during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Our recently launched Closed Loop Circular Plastics Fund provides catalytic debt and equity financing, spurring additional mainstream investments into recycling infrastructure that can help address bottlenecks in the system for rigid and flexible polyethylene and polypropylene––plastics that need more targeted interventions to help meet their high demand in the U.S. and Canada. The commitment of stakeholders at every point of the plastics value chain is critical to evolving the plastics industry toward a more sustainable future. The founding companies invested in the fund are plastics producers and chemical companies, who have been key players in unlocking the value of resin resources through material and chemical innovations; now there is opportunity to adapt their processes to maximize the value of plastics already in circulation, championing the recovery and remanufacturing of resins to extend their useful life. 

We also look to solutions that help address some of today’s most difficult-to-recycle plastics, those that cannot be processed by traditional mechanical recycling facilities. The Center’s research on advanced recycling technologies uncovers how these technologies––purification, decomposition and conversion––can help recycle many more types of plastics, expanding the scope of recoverable materials far beyond just packaging. In 2019, we conducted a landscape mapping of the technologies and opportunities, and are now conducting deeper research into the environmental impacts, policy incentives and financial case for these technologies. 

4. Sustain Markets for Recycled & Climate-Friendly Materials
With the market rewarding sustainability, circularity does not mean sacrificing profits. Today, there is a market incentive to keep valuable materials within the system, instead of sending them to landfill, which costs taxpayers money and wastes $10 billion worth of materials in landfills across the United States*. Investing in companies and product innovations that incentivize the use of recycled materials or climate-friendly materials capitalizes on opportunities created by a strong, vibrant circular economy. 

How do we do this?

Many of Closed Loop Partners’ portfolio companies manufacture products and packaging using recycled or new sustainable materials, proving viable, circular business models. For example, our portfolio company, AeroAggregates, produces ultra-lightweight fill material for infrastructure construction projects from 100% post-consumer recycled glass. Our Venture Group’s portfolio company, Algaeing, manufactures algae-based dyes and fibers within a zero-waste system––enabling water and energy efficiency while creating a viable alternative to petroleum-based textiles. 

Our portfolio company, For Days, offers direct-to-consumer apparel made from 100% organic cotton and designed for recovery with a mail-back program. They recently launched its Closet and Credit system, which gives customers credit for returning their used clothing items. They can then use this credit toward new items sold by the company, enabling a circular zero-waste system for their clothes by turning their “closet into currency.” 

To effectively build a circular economy, all of these solutions need to be in play. A successful circular economy is one where every material’s value is recognized, shared, re-used and continuously cycled. Addressing the global plastics crisis requires seeing and solving it from multiple angles; there is no panacea. We need to address today’s reality, in which billions of tons of plastics already circulate in our economy––while building for a waste-free tomorrow. 

 

*Closed Loop Partners. Research Brief: Materials Landfilled in the United States and Opportunities to Increase Materials Recovery, 2018 Update. Closed Loop Partners Internal Research, 2019, adapted from Powell and Chertow, 2018, Powell et al., 2016, and Powell et al., 2016.

The Recycling Partnership Announces Three Grants to Improve Polypropylene Curbside Recycling for Millions of Americans

By

March 31, 2021

Polypropylene Recycling Coalition brings total awards to nearly $3 million in grants, impacting 7.2 million people nationally

FALLS CHURCH, Va.March 31, 2021 — The Recycling Partnership today announced a second round of grant funding through its Polypropylene Recycling Coalition, distributing nearly $1 million in catalytic grants to advance polypropylene recycling in the U.S. Launched in July 2020, the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition (Coalition) is a cross-industry collaboration supported by steering committee members Keurig Dr Pepper, Braskem, NextGen Consortium, and the Walmart Foundation, along with other members of the polypropylene value chain. Polypropylene, sometimes referred to as No. 5 plastic, is used in an array of food and non-food packaging and is in strong demand as a recycled material.

Through its second round of grant funding, the Coalition will provide an additional three grants to Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) across the United States to boost sortation of polypropylene and support targeted consumer education efforts. To date, the Coalition has awarded grants for seven MRFs across the U.S. These investments aim to improve curbside polypropylene recycling access for an additional 3% of all U.S. households, impacting a total of 7.2 million people nationally. This aims to increase the recovery of polypropylene by an estimated 4,300 tons annually to be made into new products, such as consumer packaging and automotive parts, rather than being sent to landfills or incineration.

“The Polypropylene Recycling Coalition is leading the effort to rapidly drive meaningful, measurable change that will improve and increase the capture of polypropylene in U.S. curbside recycling. We continue to encourage all companies that use polypropylene to join us in being part of the solution to ensure greater and better capture of this recyclable material,” said Sarah Dearman, Vice President of Circular Ventures, The Recycling Partnership. “This fast, meaningful, and collaborative work will support jobs, preserve natural resources, and help support the transition to a circular economy in the United States.”

The Coalition awards grants to MRF candidates that face significant challenges in their ability to effectively sort and recycle polypropylene. With these strategic investments, polypropylene will now be accepted curbside in more communities and sent to established end markets, encouraging the shift to a circular economy. Further supporting the shift, community members in these areas will also be educated as to what is and isn’t accepted in their curbside recycling.

The three newest grantees include:

  • American Recycling in Candler, North Carolina
  • DEM-CON in Shakopee, Minnesota
  • Independent Texas Recyclers in Houston, Texas

 

The combined geographic reach of the first two rounds of grantees includes MRFs across the Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western regions of the U.S. The widespread interest and commitment from MRFs across the U.S. to growing the collection and sortation of recyclable polypropylene clearly demonstrates the market strength for this material nationwide.

The Coalition received a strong response to both the first and second rounds of requests for proposals and continues to accept grant applications to further its efforts to advance polypropylene curbside recycling. The next grant proposal request is due June 30, 2021. MRFs interested in sorting and recycling polypropylene are encouraged to apply.

The mission-driven work of the Coalition is supported by contributions from organizations representing all segments of the material’s value chain, including the Coalition’s newest member, Sabert Corporation. In addition to the aforementioned steering committee members, other members of the Coalition include American Chemistry Council, Campbell Soup Company, Danone North America, EFS-plastics, The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, KW Plastics, LyondellBasell, Merlin Plastics, Milliken & Company, Nestlé, PolyQuest, Procter & Gamble, St. Joseph Plastics, and WinpakThe Polypropylene Recycling Coalition is advised by industry leaders including: Association of Plastic Recyclers, former EPA Administrator Carol Browner, Closed Loop Partners, Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, Sustainable Packaging Coalition, and World Wildlife Fund.

The Coalition is part of The Recycling Partnership’s Pathway to Circularity, an initiative creating scalable solutions to packaging and system challenges to accelerate the shift to a circular economy that uses fewer finite resources.

To learn more about the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition, its members, and how to get involved in supporting its goals, visit recyclingpartnership.org/polypropylene-coalition. For MRFs interested in applying for a grant, the application is available on our website.

About The Recycling Partnership
The Recycling Partnership is the action agent transforming the U.S. residential recycling system for good. Our team operates at every level of the recycling value chain and work on the ground with thousands of communities to transform underperforming recycling programs and tackle circular economy challenges. As the leading organization in the country that engages the full recycling supply chain, from working with companies to make their packaging more circular and help them meet climate and sustainability goals, to working with government to develop policy solutions to address the systemic needs of the U.S. recycling system, The Recycling Partnership positively impacts recycling at every step in the process. Since 2014, the nonprofit change agent diverted 230 million pounds of new recyclables from landfills, saved 465 million gallons of water, avoided more than 250,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, and drove significant reductions in targeted contamination rates. Learn more at recyclingpartnership.org

About the 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, Wendy’s and Jacobs Douwe Egberts are supporting partners. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is the advisory partner and IDEO is the innovation partner. Learn more at www.nextgenconsortium.com.

Media Contact:
Samantha Kappalman
[email protected] 
(443) 223-3322

SOURCE The Recycling Partnership