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

By

October 01, 2021

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

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

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

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

  • Activist of the Year: Crystal Dreisbach

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

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

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

  • Most Impactful Community Leadership: Reusable LA

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

  • Most Innovative Reuse Company: Rheaply

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

 

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

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

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

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

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About Upstream: 

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

About Closed Loop Partners:

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

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

By

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

Related Links

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The Comeback of Reuse, and the Path Forward

By Georgia Sherwin, Director of Strategic Initiatives & Communications

June 16, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

What 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.

Closed Loop Partners Releases Groundbreaking Report on the Pathway to Scale for Reusable Packaging Models

By

January 14, 2021

Closed Loop Partners, IDEO and the NextGen Consortium share learnings from multiple pilots of smart, modern reusable cup systems that eliminate waste 

Read the full report

January 14, New York – Today, the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners released a first-of-its-kind report, charting the way forward for durable reusable packaging systems that reduce the need for single-use packaging. In the report, Bringing Reusable Packaging Systems to Life, the investment firm and innovation center draw on insights from multiple reusable cup pilots conducted in partnership with the NextGen Consortium and IDEO, outlining key lessons learned and sharing a blueprint and open-source resource to encourage collaboration and the growth of reuse models.

Global waste has reached a tipping point, with plastic waste entering the ocean at a rate of 11 million metric tons a year, microplastics found atop Mount Everest and now even in the food we consume. Consumers, regulators and advocacy groups are increasingly clamoring for change, and reuse models offer a promising pathway forward. These solutions extend the use and lifespan of valuable materials, moving us away from a take, make, waste model of material use toward a more circular economy. 

“Reuse models are a critical tool in the fight against plastic waste, and brands and retailers are increasingly exploring them as a viable waste reduction strategy,” says Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “Reusable packaging and cups are just the beginning; refill, resale and rental models that keep materials in circulation are poised to reinvent all kinds of product formats and industries. The future for reuse is bright, and now we need to work collaboratively toward it.” 

Closed Loop Partners convened the NextGen Consortium, with founding partners Starbucks and McDonald’s, among others, to address the world’s single-use food packaging waste by advancing the design, commercialization and recovery of packaging alternatives––starting with the hot and cold, to-go fiber cup system. Through the efforts of the NextGen Consortium, robust testing, funding and scaling of reusable cup models have been underway. Most recently, the Consortium ran pilots with NextGen Cup Challenge winners, CupClub and Muuse, across clusters of local cafes in the City of San Francisco and City of Palo Alto, CA.

Before scaling any system, proof of concept and rigorous testing is essential. NextGen’s pilots have validated a sustained and methodical approach to innovating and testing reuse models, surfacing critical inputs and considerations for scale––applicable beyond just cups. These include engaging diverse stakeholders, making sustainable material choices, selecting appropriate locations, choosing the right payment model and optimizing health and safety protocols. Ultimately, reuse models must provide a seamless, convenient experience for companies and customers.

“McDonald’s cups are an iconic part of the customer experience and can serve as a key gateway to increasing circular systems for our restaurants,” says Marion Gross, Chief Supply Chain Officer, North America, McDonald’s. “We remain committed to meaningful collaboration and solutions that will reduce waste and impact change at scale.” 

“Now is the perfect moment to design, implement and scale reuse models, as technological developments, regulatory pressures and consumer demand for eco-friendly alternatives converge,” says Chris Krohn, Project Lead, IDEO. “Piloting the reusable packaging models helps us better design a system that works for all.”   

“With single-use packaging volumes on the rise amidst the pandemic, safe and hygienic reuse models are critical to addressing the urgent issue,” says Erin Simon, Head, Plastic Waste and Business, World Wildlife Fund. “The NextGen Consortium’s reusable cup pilots are critical for providing the necessary data and understanding to advance these kinds of models as a whole and reduce waste.”  

“Changing mindsets and offering consumers reuse options must be part of our efforts to end plastic pollution once and for all,” says Kristin Hughes, Director of the Global Plastic Action Partnership, the platform for accelerating plastic pollution and waste action at the World Economic Forum. “It is crucial and very exciting to see innovative models being tried and tested on the ground by the NextGen Consortium and others.”

Beyond its work with the NextGen Consortium, Closed Loop Partners invests in and explores various other applications for reuse models. One example is the firm’s investment in Algramo, a startup solving economic and environmental issues through its vending machines that dispense staple products, such as household cleaners, “by the gram.” Continued experimentation, investment and collaboration are needed to further scale reuse models, and we work with diverse stakeholders across the value chain––from corporate partners to cities to environmental NGOs––to advance their growth and realize their full potential. 

 

About Closed Loop Partners

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

The firm has built an ecosystem that connects entrepreneurs, industry experts, global consumer goods and technology companies, retailers, 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 landfill.

 

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, 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.