The Next Economy
Calling All Food Waste Fighters:
New Funding for Closed-Loop Solutions

The Closed Loop Foundation (CL Foundation) has announced a new grant and loan opportunity for food waste solutions that are applicable in the United States. Hoping to unlock food waste diversion and reduction at scale, the CL Foundation launched a ‘Food Waste Solution Search,’ open to submissions for all types of solutions to the food waste challenge, from field to end-of-life.

The CL Foundation was one of the main supporters of ReFED’s recent report, A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent, which showed that food waste is not only a systemic challenge, but that solutions for preventing, diverting, and reducing food waste offer strong economic returns with optimal social and environmental benefits. At the same time, the report acknowledged that financing is a major roadblock for solutions that are too early to attract private investment.

“Key technology and business model innovations are needed around packaging and labeling, IT-enabled transportation and storage, logistics software, value-added compost products, and distributed recycling,” the report says.

“To overcome bottlenecks to unlocking $18 billion in financing, $100-200 million annually is needed in catalytic grants, innovation investments, and low-cost project finance. Today few investors or foundations focus explicitly on food waste.”

With these results in mind, the CL Foundation has decided it will provide seed capital through grants and Program-Related Investment (PRI) loans to support companies and projects that have the potential to unlock solutions for reducing food waste at scale.

The funding will be between $25,000 and $50,000, and will be awarded in November 2016. Proposals are due on August 12, 2016, and submission information is available in the Request for Proposals (RFP) document and on the Foundation’s website.

The goals of the Solutions Search are simple: to reduce food waste going to landfill; to prevent food loss and recover food resulting in more meals; and to invest in scalable, post-consumer solutions. The funding categories are as follows:

  1. Prevention and Diversion: Solutions that prevent waste in businesses and homes, such as packaging and labeling, products and portions, operational and supply chain efficiency tools (analytics, tracking and management), consumer education, etc.;
  2. Recovery: Solutions that improve donation infrastructure and policy, such as software, transport, storage, handling, value-add processing, etc.; and
  3. Recycling: Energy and digestate solutions, as well as on-site business processing solutions and agricultural products for municipal, commercial and residential customers.

What impact will these solutions have? According to ReFED’s research, prevention and diversion solutions typically have the greatest economic value per ton and net environmental benefit, and such solutions will need to divert 2.6 million tons of waste annually. Food recovery can be increased by 18 billion meals annually, which would require doubling the amount of meals rescued today and diverting 1.1 million tons of waste. Centralized composting and anaerobic digestion (AD), as well as a smaller set of growing distributed solutions, are expected to enable 9.5 million tons of waste diversion – nearly three-quarters of the total potential.

In May, award-winning chefs from across the country delivered a petition to Senate and House offices that referred to ReFED’s work and urged more bipartisan solutions and market signals to reduce the ‘more than $200 billion dollar food waste problem in America.’ Even more recently, Food Cowboy launched a new alliance and Food Waste Innovation Fund to invest up to $75 million a year in food waste solutions. These are just some of many actions to help curb food waste, which has become an increasingly high profile issue over the last few years, both in the U.S. and abroad.

The Closed Loop Foundation is affiliated with the Closed Loop Fund, an impact investment fund that has previously focused on offering below-market loans to recycling companies and municipalities for recycling infrastructure.

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