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The Next Economy
Closed Loop Fund Launches FlexPack Recovery Challenge, Gets $10M Infusion from Amazon

Amazon today announced that it will invest $10 million in Closed Loop Fund to support recycling infrastructure in the United States. The investment will increase the availability of curbside recycling for 3 million homes in communities across the country, making it easier for customers to recycle and further develop end markets for recycled commodities. The investment will divert 1 million tons of recyclable material from landfill into the recycling stream and eliminate the equivalent of 2 million metric tons of CO2 by 2028 — equivalent to shutting down a coal-fired power plant for six months.

Roughly half of Americans today lack access to convenient, sufficient curbside recycling at their homes. Closed Loop Fund finances the building of advanced recycling infrastructure and services, bringing this invaluable service to the community while saving taxpayers and municipalities money.

“This investment will help build the local capabilities needed to make it easier for our customers and their communities to recycle and to increase the amount of material recycled across the country,” said Dave Clark, Amazon’s SVP of Worldwide Operations. “We are investing in Closed Loop Fund’s work because we think everyone should have access to easy, convenient curbside recycling. The more we are all able to recycle, the more we can reduce our collective energy, carbon and water footprint.”

Closed Loop Fund invests in sustainable consumer goods, advanced recycling technologies, and the development of a circular economy. It aims over the next 10 years to eliminate more than 16 million tons of greenhouse gas, divert more than 8 million cumulative tons of waste from landfills, improve recycling for more than 18 million households, and save nearly $60 million for American cities.

Ron Gonen, CEO of Closed Loop Fund, added: “Amazon's investment in Closed Loop Fund is another example of how recycling is good business in America. Companies are seeing that they can meet consumer demand and reduce costs while supporting a more sustainable future and growing good jobs across the country. We applaud Amazon's commitment to cut waste, and we hope their leadership drives other brands and retailers to follow suit."

Solving customers’ needs for recycling can create economic benefits in the cities and towns where they live. Increasing the amount of recycled materials available can also lead to a lower cost of goods sold, and lessen the impacts of transportation, as there is no need to ship waste to landfills. Cities also directly benefit through increased cash flow and jobs, as most recycling is done locally.

Amazon’s investment in Closed Loop Fund furthers Amazon’s longstanding commitment to reducing packaging waste through its Frustration-Free Packaging programs, which are designed to produce less waste than traditional packaging. Amazon works directly with thousands of manufacturers to help them redesign their packaging, eliminate waste throughout the supply chain, and ensure products arrive undamaged on customers’ doorsteps. Amazon introduced Frustration-Free Packaging 10 years ago, and it has eliminated more than 244,000 tons of packaging materials to date, including 500 million shipping boxes.

The idea for the challenge began in the SPC’s Industry Leadership Committee on Multi-Material Flexible Recovery, a working group comprised of major brands, plastic manufacturers and packaging suppliers who jointly recognize the opportunity for new recovery technologies. Multi-material flexible packaging — which can consist of upwards of nine layers of plastics, aluminum, adhesives, paper and other substrates — is widely used for a number of household products including pet food bags, confectionery wrappers and chip bags, and represents the fastest-growing segment within the packaging industry.

As SPC points out, this type of packaging offers advantages in cost, material efficiency and low emissions intensity but also presents hurdles for recyclers and other recovery outlets. few technologies exist that can effectively recover the embodied environmental investment within multi-material flexible packaging; the FlexPack Recovery Challenge aims to uncover and showcase new technologies that can be scaled to provide meaningful solutions.

“A system of sustainable packaging requires an effective, robust means of recovering the inherent value in all packaging waste, and novel, potentially unheard of recovery solutions will be needed to complete the sustainability story for this important packaging category,” said SPC Associate Director Adam Gendell.

The Center for the Circular Economy, launched by Closed Loop Partners to serve as a hub for innovators enabling our transition from a take-make-waste economy, views the challenge of multi-material flexible recovery as one that is paramount to achieving a circular economy for packaging. The Center is tackling a similar challenge in its NextGen Cup Challenge, aimed at discovering new, more recoverable fiber cup solutions, and brings to the FlexPack Recovery Challenge specialized expertise in supporting and accelerating the work of innovators in the packaging and recycling spaces.

“We are delighted to partner with our Innovation Partner the Sustainable Packaging Coalition on the FlexPack Recovery Challenge,” said Kate Daly, Executive Director of the Center for the Circular Economy. “Collaborative partnerships like this one, bringing together early-stage innovators and industry, are key if we’re to move the needle on this challenging area of package recovery.”

Submissions in the FlexPack Recovery Challenge will be accepted until December 15, 2018, and participation is open to any startup, university or individual entrepreneur with a pilot-ready reprocessing technology that can recover multi-material flexible packaging in a way that is environmentally beneficial, economically productive and socially just. Finalists will be invited to present their work at an Entrepreneurs Showcase at **SPC Impact **in Seattle, WA on April 2, 2019; and one winner will receive special recognition and celebration on stage at SPC Impact, one year of SPC membership, and will join a special mentorship program jointly administered by the Center for the Circular Economy and the SPC.


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