How You Can Help 'Close the Loop'

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“Close the loop” is a common phrase used throughout recycling industry and sustainable living conversations. However, it’s a phrase that can often seem complicated to those outside of the recycling sphere.

Here’s a breakdown of what it means, what it looks like when it’s working and what consumers can do to help.

plastic bag recycling

Prior to being manufactured, old plastic bags and film are pelletized during the recycling process. Photo: Courtesy True Reusable Bags

Close the Loop

Closing the loop refers to a series of steps involving consumers, recyclers and manufacturers.

Ideally, a used material is recycled by a consumer. A recycling facility sorts the material and breaks it down so that it can be used in manufacturing. From there, a manufacturer uses the material to produce a new product.

Once a consumer buys a product with that recycled material, the cycle begins again. But in order to keep the loop closed, each player has to do their part.

Recycling Means Business

One of the most commonly overlooked elements of recycling is the value of recycled material. As consumers, when we are done with a product, we consider it waste. However, to recyclers and manufacturers, that waste is actually a commodity.

The recycling facilities that process our recyclables are able to sell the processed materials to manufacturers. This makes money for the city or company (depending on who owns the facility) and allows the facility to continue or even grow its recycling capacity.

The manufactures then purchase those recycled materials rather than using virgin materials, giving them the payoff of saving natural resources and often energy costs to boot. Consumers, in turn purchase the product made with recycled materials. Starting to see the loop?


What does the closed loop look like?

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