Recycling is a system.

It is a system of consumption, transformation and rebirth.  It is a supply chain system of inputs, outputs and infrastructure.  Without this recycling system, the world would be a much trashier place.  So what happens if the system is broken?  Alternatively, what if the system or access to it didn’t exist?

All across the U.S. there are areas where access to the system simply does not exist at the municipal level. There are multiple reasons why this scenario could be true.  For example, an infrastructure may be missing, volumes may be too low or transportation logistics simply don’t make sense.

closedloopfundWith dwindling budgets, financing such a system can roadblock enough for municipalities.  When this happens everyone loses – including our environment. Enter Closed Loop Fund.

Last year leaders from ten Fortune 100 companies announced their commitment to increasing recycling across America by investing in the Closed Loop Fund.

Comprising the Closed Loop Fund are 3M, Unilever, Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Keurig Green Mountain (an Earth911 partner), Colgate Palmolive and Goldman Sachs.

For over 18 months, the Closed Loop Fund team has been pouring over data, research and real world experiences looking to identify bottlenecks in the system and opportunities for increasing recycling rates.  ‘We realized that this is a collective impact model and that no one party could achieve this alone,’ said Rob Kaplan, Managing Director at Closed Loop Fund.

‘The concept only works if people have access to recycling opportunities,’ added Kaplan.

murfTheir efforts uncovered a recurring trend – a municipality’s access to capital (to implement a recycling system).  After an RFP and selection process, the fund then provides no interest loans to municipalities —with a few strings attached.

First, they must pay back the principal over the negotiated time period.  Secondly, the proposed system must be scalable and repeatable.  Finally, the proposed systems inputs and outputs must be measurable.

Another bottleneck?  Glass recycling.  Due to its weight and need for pure color streams, the market for glass recycling has decreased considerably.  By infusing the system with capital and an expanded infrastructure, the fund hopes to reverse this current trend.

Kaplan describes the Closed Loop Fund as a next generation sustainability initiative.

‘Our goal is to give recycling access to people when and where they need it,’ added Kaplan.

The fund anticipates the announcement of its first set of investments later this year.

By Chase Ezell

Chase has served in various public relations, communications and sustainability roles. He is a former managing editor for