Closed Loop Partners Acquires Majority Stake in Sage Sustainable Electronics, Accelerating IT Asset Management and Disposition Services in North America


November 02, 2023

Amidst the rapid growth of e-waste, Closed Loop Partners acquires majority stake in Midwest-based ITAD provider, Sage Sustainable Electronics, to advance electronics reuse and recovery

COLUMBUS, OhioNov. 1, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Today, circular economy-focused investment firm Closed Loop Partners joins forces with leading IT Asset Management and Disposition provider, Sage Sustainable Electronics, as a majority shareholder in the company. The investment from Closed Loop Partners’ buyout private equity fund, the Closed Loop Leadership Fund, is taking place at a critical time, amidst the rapid growth of electronic waste, increasing corporate commitments around e-waste management and rising demand for increased transparency and data security in the IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) industry. The strategic partnership aims to accelerate the growth of Sage Sustainable Electronics and strengthen its position as a leading provider of sustainable ITAD services in North America.

Since its founding in 2014 by co-founder Jill Vaské and CEO Bob Houghton, Sage Sustainable Electronics has been at the forefront of advancing a circular economy for electronics, providing reuse and recovery solutions to businesses seeking to sustainably dispose of their IT assets.

Today the company’s clients include Fortune 100 companies across various industries, including finance, healthcare and defense. With Closed Loop Partners as a majority shareholder, Sage will have access to additional resources, a deep ecosystem of companies advancing the circular economy, and expertise to further enhance its services and expand its reach.

Houghton, a leading expert in the ITAD industry said of the partnership, “we’re absolutely thrilled to join forces with Closed Loop Partners. This marks a significant step towards advancing the circular economy within the ITAD industry. First of all, they truly share our commitment to sustainability and reuse. That, of course, is always first on our list. But secondly, this partnership enables us to further expand our reach and increase our impact.”

“Sage Sustainable Electronics’ work to safely increase reuse and proper disposition in the ITAD space is critical to ensuring valuable materials, such as IT assets, do not end up wasted in landfills or the natural environment. E-waste represents a massive loss of value that we can recover through more efficient reuse and recycling,” said Karine Khatcherian, Managing Director and Co-Head of the Closed Loop Leadership Fund at Closed Loop Partners. “We are proud to partner with the Sage team and support their continued growth as one of the leading IT Asset Disposition providers in North America.”

With a differentiated focus on electronics reuse, Sage Sustainable Electronics is committed to achieving the highest possible Reusable Yield® ratio for IT Assets. Coined by Houghton, the ratio determines a company’s IT asset carbon reduction impact. On average, Sage Sustainable Electronics securely refurbishes or ethically recycles nearly one million devices per year on behalf of its clients. Extending the lifespan of electronics not only reduces waste, but addresses climate impact and helps provide access to electronics for more people.

“Reusable Yield is the percentage of everything sent to an ITAD provider that is appropriately triaged, tested, refurbished and securely sent to another user. The higher your Reusable Yield, the higher the financial, environmental and social benefit on your retired assets. It’s what we live by here at Sage,” said Houghton.

In 2022, Sage sent 58% of its total processed devices to a second life, mitigating approximately 300 million pounds of CO2e annually according to the EPA’s Electronic Environmental Benefits Calculator. This is a result of greenhouse gas emissions avoided by preventing the creation of a new device. The impact associated with manufacturing a new device is significant––in fact, approximately 80% of the environmental damage can be done by the time a brand-new device is manufactured.

“An overlooked source of climate risk is the emissions associated with creating a new product. Keeping used materials in circulation to reduce the need for new extraction and new product manufacturing is an important part of mitigating climate impact,” said Jackson Pei, Director at Closed Loop Partners’ Leadership Fund.

According to a 2022 report by McKinsey & Company, the biggest carbon culprit in the IT sector is end-user devices. In fact, the study found end user devices like laptops, smartphones and tablets generate one and a half to two times more carbon than data centers when created. This is exacerbated by the fact that these devices are replaced much more often, with an average refresh cycle by IT departments of two years for smart phones, four years for laptops and five years for printers.

Proactive and sustainability-focused CIOs can decrease their carbon footprints by ensuring their employee devices are destined for a second life. Sage Sustainable Electronics is uniquely positioned to meet this need through their distinct focus on electronics reuse. With a team of industry pioneers who recognize the financial and environmental value of making ITAD programs more sustainable, Sage’s systems ensure that IT assets are efficiently and responsibly kept in circulation.

Today, Sage Sustainable Electronics is well positioned for further growth through their partnership with Closed Loop Partners. “The mission and impact of Sage holds firm from the day we started this work. The tailwinds around e-waste recovery today are only increasing, and this is just the beginning of what is possible,” said Houghton.

About Closed Loop Partners

Closed Loop Partners is at the forefront of building the circular economy. The company is comprised of three key business segments. Closed Loop Capital Management manages venture capital, buyout and catalytic private credit investment strategies on behalf of global corporations, financial institutions and family offices. The Center for the Circular Economy unites competitors and partners to tackle complex material challenges and implement systemic change to advance circularity. Circular Services employs innovative technology within reuse, recycling, remanufacturing and re-commerce solutions to improve regional economic and environmental outcomes, and build resilient systems that keep food & organics, textiles, electronics, packaging and more, in circulation and out of landfill or the natural environment. Closed Loop Partners is based in New York City and is a registered B Corp. For more information, please visit

About Closed Loop Leadership Fund

The Closed Loop Leadership Fund is Closed Loop Partners’ private equity fund, which closed in 2022. The fund focuses on investing in best-in-class circular business models across plastics and packaging, food and organics, technology, textiles, built environment and the energy transition.

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

About Sage Sustainable Electronics

Sage Sustainable Electronics, based in Columbus, Ohio also has a plant in Reno, Nevada. Founded in 2014, co-founders, Bob Houghton and Jill Vaské, are ITAD sustainability pioneers. As founders of Redemtech, their first venture, they defined best practices for the ITAD industry in security, asset management, and responsible recycling—including foundational support for the e-Stewards Certification program, the Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher program, and the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling.  When they founded Sage in 2014, their combined ITAD expertise and unwavering commitment to environmental sustainability resulted in an ITAD company designed with sustainability at the forefront. Their mission is to serve the following (and in this order): the planet, customers, colleagues, communities, suppliers, and shareholders.

For interviews contact

Alaina Shearer
[email protected]


Purposeful Collaboration for a Sustainable Future 

By Kate Daly

December 05, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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


How Climate, Carbon & Reuse Come Together

By Closed Loop Partners & Just Salad

November 17, 2022

Georgia Sherwin, Senior Director at Closed Loop Partners interviews Sandra Noonan, Chief Sustainability Officer at Just Salad, a direct investment of Closed Loop Partners. Just Salad is the home of the world’s largest restaurant reusable bowl program and is the first U.S. restaurant chain to carbon label its menu.

1. In 2020, Just Salad became one of the first US chain restaurants to show the estimated carbon footprint of every item on its menu, why was this so important to do and what have been the impacts on your business to date?

In 1994, the Nutrition Facts panel began appearing on food products. Today it is one of the most ubiquitous labels in the world and many of us depend on it to make purchasing choices. Nearly 30 years later, we know that food systems represent more than 34% of total greenhouse gas emissions (according to a 2021 paper published by Nature). Our food choices affect the temperature of the planet and its long-term habitability. So, food labels should help us evaluate ecosystem impacts, as well as nutritional content. That is the perspective that went into our carbon labels. They indicate the estimated quantity of greenhouse gas emissions associated with each item on our menu. Several research studies show that people will change their purchasing behavior in response to carbon labels. When we were developing our carbon labels, I wanted a term to describe eaters who consider taste, nutrition, and environmental sustainability when ordering from our menu. We chose the term Climatarian. Today, Just Salad’s digital menus feature a “Climatarian” dietary filter showing our lowest-footprint items. Carbon labels give us ingredient-level insight. We’ve worked with our third-party verifier, Planet FWD, to quantify the impacts of specific sourcing decisions. For example, we found that by switching from conventionally cultivated quinoa to Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) quinoa, we’ve reduced the greenhouse gas emissions associated with two menu items by 3.29%, which will add up to approximately 1.83 tons of CO2e over the year 2022. With Planet FWD’s help, we’re generating similar calculations demonstrating the impact of other ingredients, like vegan feta cheese, and more resource-efficient packaging, like our reusable bowl program. We’ve also partnered with researchers at University of Pennsylvania and Harvard on a survey that assesses customers’ engagement with our carbon labels.

2. While we know reuse has an important role to play in reducing single-use plastic waste, how do you think about the carbon footprint attached to these reuse systems that typically require more energy and material during manufacturing, as well as complex reverse logistics?

It takes energy to produce a piece of packaging, whether reusable or disposable. Reusable packaging needs to be durable and long-lasting. Therefore, the carbon footprint from manufacturing it will be higher than for a flimsier, disposable container. What we’re optimizing for is the overall, lifecycle footprint of our reusable containers. We want it to be lower than disposables after the smallest possible number of uses. One factor affecting this is the type of material from which your reusable container is made, and how frequently your customers will reuse it. The less resource-intensive your material, and the more frequently your customers reuse it, the faster you’ll achieve the lifecycle emissions savings versus disposables. As for reverse logistics, we incentivize customers to keep bringing back their reusable containers by providing a free topping with every reuse. We offer additional rewards throughout the year to keep the reuse cycle going. For example, when we launched plant-based Beyond Chicken, customers who brought in reusable bowls received that item for free. At new store openings, we hold “$5 salad days” for reusable bowl customers. I’m proud of the fact that we tie rewards to circular, resource-conscious behaviors.

3. What kind of data have you uncovered to support the environmental case for reusable packaging? How do you verify this and what are some of the biggest challenges regarding impact measurement?

In 2022, we completed a third-party lifecycle assessment comparing the environmental impacts of our reusable and disposable packaging. We estimated the greenhouse gas emissions and water use associated with every stage: materials, manufacturing, the packaging they arrive in, distribution, first use and end of life. The LCA concluded that after two uses, the Just Salad reusable bowl has less global warming impacts than a disposable fiber bowl. These findings are substantiated through Monte Carlo uncertainty analyses with 95% confidence. If you were to eat at Just Salad every week for a year using our reusable bowl, your carbon footprint would be 89% lower than if you’d eaten out of a disposable container. The results also show that the reusable bowl results in less water consumption impacts after the second use (though uncertainty in the underlying water consumption data prevents these estimates from being substantiated at the 95% confidence level). To maximize the water-conservation and greenhouse gas emission benefits, we recommend that customers wash the Reusable Bowl in a full dishwasher at the most energy- and water-efficient setting possible.

Of course, lifecycle analyses are only as good as the assumptions upon which they’re based. We worked with our LCA partners over the course of a year to collect and verify our data. That was challenging, if only because of the time investment required. We were privileged to work with experts who cared deeply about data quality and rigor. They performed sensitivity analyses on our base assumptions (for example, our assumptions about the proportion of containers that are washed by hand versus dishwasher). The sensitivity analysis gave us even more confidence in the final results.

4. How have your reusable bowl programs evolved over time? What’s the customer experience look like?

Since 2006, when we opened our very first store, Just Salad has offered an in-store program that works as follows: Buy a reusable bowl for $1, and every time you bring it back, you get a free salad topping, like avocado. In 2022, we piloted a digital version of this program: In the Just Salad mobile app, you can opt in to our “BringBack” program. When ordering your meal, simple toggle BringBack Bowl Pickup. Your salad will be packaged in a reusable container that you can then bring back to Just Salad on your next visit. We will handle the washing and sanitation. BringBack is currently live at two stores and will roll out to a total of 10 stores in the coming months.

5. What would your advice be to a foodservice provider considering a shift to reuse? What are the different kinds of benefits they could anticipate, beyond simply environmental?

This year, we gave a comprehensive course on our reusable packaging program. (Companies and individuals can sign up for updates on future courses through the course site, Summing up that course, I would advise anyone to take a systems-level perspective. Think about every stage of the packaging’s journey including Production, Consumption, Collection, and Processing. Then, consider how your customer interacts with the packaging at each of those stages. Finally, put a data collection system in place so you can measure and track environmental impact. Separately, seek out a support network that is as passionate about reuse as you are. That has helped me a lot.

Across Closed Loop Partners and our Center for the Circular Economy, we are testing, piloting and investing in reusable packaging models in order to accelerate their pathway to scale. We see reuse as a primary means to addressing the mounting single-use plastics waste challenge, reducing the need for virgin plastic extraction and keeping valuable materials in play.


How Do We Spark a Seachange for Reuse?

By Kate Daly

October 06, 2022

It will take unprecedented collaboration to address the scale of our global plastic waste challenge. Bringing together the nation’s largest retailers to test and pilot sustainable packaging solutions that operate across each other’s stores is a critical step toward this collective goal. 

If you visualize the current journey of most products and packaging in our economy, it looks like a straight line that starts with extracting finite raw materials and ends at the landfill. After decades of relying on this seemingly convenient linear system, its long-hidden economic costs and environmental consequences have become clear, bringing us to a tipping point that necessitates a better way forward — one that considers these materials as resources, not waste.

Consider the iconic single-use plastic bag. In the United States, it’s estimated that we use 100 billion plastic bags per year – and fewer than 10 percent of these are recycled. Most bags wind up in the landfill, in the environment, or in the wrong recycling stream, tangling recycling equipment and leading to costly shutdowns. Today, depending on where we live, our local stores may charge a fee to use a plastic or paper bag or may have banned single-use bags. More and more, customers are demanding convenient options that reduce environmental impact while helping us get our goods home. Reusable bags that we can borrow rather than own are one part of the solution, alongside bag reduction and building the habit of using the bags we already own. We’ve all had moments when we’ve forgotten our reusable bag or taken an unplanned shopping trip, which is where borrowing a reusable bag fits in.

Earlier this month, the Center for the Circular Economy released Beyond the Plastic Bag: Sparking a Seachange for Reuse – a report of our learnings from conducting first-of-a-kind reusable bag pilots at CVS Health, Target and Walmart stores in Northern California last summer.  The report is specific to the testing of reusable bag systems where customers who didn’t bring their own bag could “borrow” a bag and use it multiple times before returning it at the same or a different brand’s store to be washed, redistributed and reused by other customers.

The Beyond the Bag Pilots, launched by the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag and conducted in partnership with global design firm IDEO, unearthed key insights across the customer journey and in behind the scenes operational logistics to determine what needs to be true for reuse models to be successful.

 What We Learned

  • For customers to pay attention to this new approach to carrying goods home, punchy, impact-oriented storytelling, with a clear description of the rewards and benefits of participating is essential
  • For customers to participate in reuse systems, signing up to borrow a bag must be just as convenient, inclusive and accessible as using a single-use bag
  • Accessible drop-off points and quick confirmation of the return of reusables are must-haves for customers to engage fully in a reuse system
  • Impact must be measured at every stage of the system, including percentage of reusable bags recovered, water and energy usage, and bag damage or loss rates. Return rates and repeat participation are critical measurements that require long-term testing and engagement to accurately gauge
  • As reuse grows, so do opportunities for increased efficiencies in shared infrastructure and other collaborations that increase the density and availability of drop-off points and help optimize and scale the system

We need to design and implement every aspect of the new systems thoughtfully to meet the needs of customers and retailers and ensure a measurable environmental benefit. Iterative testing and data-driven decision-making can help avoid unintended consequences, like insufficient recapture of “reusables” or the one-to-one replacement of single-use plastics with reusables.

The learnings from our reusable bag pilots extend far beyond this one application and help bring additional data to the conversation on reuse, but we still have a long way to go. Experimentation, iteration, and collaboration will continue to be key. Additional tests and measurements of reuse systems over longer periods will be necessary to gauge the shift from initial adoption of a reusable product to the active return and repeat engagement in a truly circular reuse system. Through collaborations like the Beyond the Bag partnership we hope to accelerate toward a future in which reusing valuable materials and products in our economy becomes the commonsense norm. Explore the full learnings from our pilots here.

Closed Loop Partners Releases Key Insights from First-of-a-Kind Multi-Retailer Reusable Bag Pilots, with CVS Health, Target & Walmart


September 13, 2022

New report from Closed Loop Partners shares insights to guide retailers on effective reusable bag models, a key solution as regulations to reduce reliance on single-use plastic bags grow across the U.S.

Read the full report

September 13, New York, NY – Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy and the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag released a new resource to help guide retailers looking to adopt reusable bag service models. The report, Beyond the Plastic Bag, shares key insights and analysis gathered from collaborative reusable bag pilots conducted in select CVS Health, Target and Walmart stores throughout Northern California in 2021, as part of the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag’s Beyond the Bag Pilots.

Approximately 100 billion single-use plastic bags are used each year in the U.S., most of which end up as waste in landfills and the environment. Reuse models play an important role in addressing single-use plastic packaging waste, alongside other complementary waste mitigation strategies. As retailers work to respond to the urgent challenge and address increasing plastic bag regulations across the U.S., the report provides key findings on what drives an optimal shopper experience and uptake of reuse models:

Customer-facing journey for reusable bag services

  • Effective storytelling is foundational for building awareness
  • Convenience is imperative when it comes to adoption and sign-up
  • Customers are looking for a clear and easy reason to help them reuse
  • Accessible drop-off points and quick confirmation of return help build trust in the reuse system


Behind the scenes action enabling reusable bag services

  • Partnering with the right stakeholders matters
  • Impact must be measured at every stage
  • Further scaling reuse systems will help catalyze efficiencies


“Successfully implementing reuse models on the ground, and accelerating their growth, takes unprecedented collaboration. Since 2018, the Center for the Circular Economy has been convening competitors to address complex material challenges and advance circular solutions, including reuse,” said Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “This collaboration with the nation’s largest retailers to test and pilot reusable bag solutions across multiple stores is a critical step toward reducing single-use plastic bag waste. Iterative testing and data-driven decision-making of reuse systems can help avoid unintended consequences, like insufficient recapture of reusable packaging or the one-to-one replacement of single-use plastics with ‘reusables.’ We hope that this report on the Beyond the Bag initiative serves as inspiration for forward-thinking organizations looking to bring reuse to the next level. The learnings from our pilots can help guide us toward a future in which reusing valuable materials and products in our economy becomes the commonsense norm.”

The Center for the Circular Economy launched the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag in 2020, convening many of the world’s largest retailers to identify, test and implement innovative new design solutions that serve the function of today’s single-use plastic retail bag. The Consortium’s Innovation Partner, IDEO, worked closely with Closed Loop Partners and its retail partners in designing and running the reusable bag pilots in Northern California featured in the Beyond the Plastic Bag report. Findings from the Beyond the Bag Pilots build on and complement additional learnings from Closed Loop Partners’ NextGen Consortium that ran several reusable cup pilots in 2020, driving forward the Center’s work to rigorously test and hone reuse solutions to ensure that they achieve their intended impacts.

“Through partnerships with innovative startups, collaboration with other partners, and buy-in from our customers, the Beyond the Bag Pilots provided critical data-driven analysis on the role that reuse models could play in plastic waste mitigation when thoughtfully designed and their impact successfully measured,” said Sheryl Burke, Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility for CVS Health. “We still have a lot to learn collectively, but we’re thrilled to continue our journey towards a more circular future for retail.”

“Bringing Target, Walmart, and CVS Health to the same table demonstrates the partnership needed across our industry to address the challenge of plastic waste and achieve measurable environmental benefits for all,” said Amanda Nusz, Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility for Target and President of the Target Foundation. “We’re grateful for the insights these pilots have provided, and we’re applying what we learned to identify bag options that are best for our guests, propelling more circular systems throughout retail.”

“The Beyond the Bag Pilots fostered an unprecedented platform for connectivity between trailblazing reuse start-ups, customers, Walmart, and other retailers in the industry,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, Executive Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer for Walmart. “The pilots created the space for collective experimentation, and provided data-driven insights on the ease, convenience, and perceived benefits of the models tested. This kind of on-the-ground diligence from pilots is critical to inform what could be next for reuse and where it could fit in a circular economy.”

Over the next year, the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag will continue to conduct extensive research and in-market testing of designs and innovative bag solutions that can reduce single-use plastic bag waste. These aim to inform the viability of solutions in different contexts, as well as the full potential of solutions to more sustainably, accessibly and effectively get goods home.

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 and catalytic capital, as well as 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 systems problems. In 2022, the Center launched a Reuse Insights Lab to advance the firm’s testing, piloting and investing in reusable packaging models. The Reuse Insights Lab conducts qualitative and quantitative research and data analytics through in-market testing, focus groups and customer interviews, to identify how to design and build the architecture for a reuse system that brings the circular economy to the forefront in our everyday life. Learn more about the Center’s work here.

About the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag

The Beyond the Bag Initiative, launched by the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, aims to identify, pilot and implement viable design solutions and models that more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag. Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy launched the initiative with Founding Partners CVS Health, Target and Walmart. The Kroger Co. joined as Grocery Sector Lead Partner, DICK’S Sporting Goods joined as Sports & Outdoors Sector Lead Partner, Dollar General as Value Sector Lead Partner, The TJX Companies, Inc. as Apparel & Home Goods Sector Lead Partner, and Ulta Beauty as Beauty Sector Lead Partner. Ahold Delhaize USA Brands, Albertsons Companies, H-E-B, Hy-Vee, Meijer, Wakefern Food Corp., and Walgreens are Supporting Partners, and Conservation International and Ocean Conservancy serve as Environmental Advisory Partners. IDEO is the Consortium’s Innovation Partner. Learn more about the Consortium here.

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


October 01, 2021

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

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

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

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

  • Activist of the Year: Crystal Dreisbach

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

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

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

  • Most Impactful Community Leadership: Reusable LA

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

  • Most Innovative Reuse Company: Rheaply

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


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

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

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

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


About Upstream: 

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

About Closed Loop Partners:

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

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


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

SOURCE Upstream

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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


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