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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Closing the Loop on Recycling:
Unilever, P&G Aim to Give Communities Greater Access to Recycling Programs

Regardless of where we live, we’re neighbors — sharing this grand global space, and thus all of its sustainability challenges and opportunities.

Therefore, we believe we also share in the responsibility to develop solutions, and to work together when our combined resources can have a positive impact that none of us could achieve on our own.

It was this shared belief that led our two companies, Unilever and Procter & Gamble, to join with others in forming the Closed Loop Fund, a consortium of major corporations that have created a $100 million fund aimed at providing municipalities access to zero- and low-interest loans to build comprehensive recycling programs.

The issue

40 percent of American consumers still do not have easy access to recycling bins — mainly because municipalities lack funds needed to build infrastructure to support single-stream recycling.

It’s a cyclical problem: Without recycling programs, municipalities are spending more — a lot more — on waste management. For instance in 2013, low recycling rates caused cities to spend more than $7 billion on landfills and lose out on more than $11 billion that could have been earned from selling recycled materials.

Consumer packaged companies also are adversely impacted as this means they have an inefficient and inconsistent stream of recycled material for their packaging.

That is why we — as representatives of two leading consumer products companies — are partnering with the Closed Loop Fund. The Fund will provide municipalities with zero-interest loans to create the needed infrastructure and offer us a stable stream of recycled content to infuse back into our packaging.

The return on investment

The return on our investment will be multi-dimensional. First, shoppers will have access to programs to recycle our packaging. Second, we will increase the volume of recyclable packaging by having a more consistent pipeline of recycled content. And third, we will maximize efficiencies and reduce the environmental collective footprint of our companies and our shoppers.

Packaging waste

We know that recycling works. In 2012, despite the disparity in recycling standards across the U.S., nearly 87 million tons of waste was recycled and composted. That’s equal to removing the emissions from more than 33 million passenger vehicles. On top, through an initial infusion of $100 million, we hope to create 27,000 local jobs and nearly $2 billion in savings just by 2025.

That’s not insignificant.

An opportunity — if we join together

Our two companies are joined by Walmart, Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Goldman Sachs, 3M and Keurig Green Mountain as the initial funders of the Closed Loop Fund. We’ve come together because we recognize that the need for sustainability is paramount and transformative action requires unprecedented collaboration and innovative solutions.

The Closed Loop Fund offers us an opportunity to make a significant difference in sustainability practices across the United States. By targeting the issue of access — funding for municipalities, recycling for consumers and a steady stream of recycled content for businesses — we have the opportunity to initiate a scalable and long-term solution.

Often, big challenges require bold action. But the action can’t stop with us — it requires members of communities across the country on the frontlines to embrace recycling, and other companies to join us in enabling greater change.

Let’s scale the change. Let’s close the loop.