These investments offer proof-of-concept for scaling more investments in waste infrastructure across North America. Modernizing Sims’ recycling capabilities acts as a circularity laboratory, which can lead to better design for the whole US recycling system.
The business case for circularity is clear and it is not going unnoticed. According to the World Economic Forum and recent research from Bain & Company, 50 percent of leaders surveyed expect circularity to become the "new normal" for all companies within the next 10 years.
Within trash, business executives see treasure — and value. Yet, realizing the full market potential of a circular economy is inextricably linked to effective collection and manufacturing of plastic waste. And for many cities across the US, waste infrastructure needs renewed focus.
The vision of a robust circular economy by world leaders cannot happen without dedicated investment in recycling infrastructure. The more recyclables that are collected, sorted and cleaned, the more opportunities manufacturers have to provide these products with a second or even a third life — from 100 percent recycled eyeglasses to a pair of sneakers made from plastic waste.
Yet, it’s estimated that nearly 40 percent of households in the US don’t have easy access to recycling where the process begins: at collection. The challenge is magnified by the more than 10,000 completely different types of recycling processes across the country. This dynamic creates a real market hurdle for brands wanting to collect and process the waste needed to meet the increasing demand for sustainable products.
But with the right investment in community infrastructure and manufacturing, as well as public-private collaboration, cities and the surrounding suburbs are springboards for advancements in circularity across the United States.
A new kind of partnership
Advancing the US’s infrastructure cannot be achieved by one person or one business alone. Partnerships between governments, communities and industries across geographies are critical. Yet, to reach the scale needed to shift the country’s vast and disconnected infrastructure landscape, atypical collaboration is required.
Industry competitors don’t often join hands and work together toward the same goal, however, in recognition of the market power needed to push the circular economy forward and invest in local communities, industry peers LyondellBasell, NOVA Chemicals and Dow came together to catalyze millions toward Closed Loop Partners’ Circular Plastics Fund.
Closed Loop Partners and industry players recognized that jumpstarting circularity often begins with the basics — ensuring there are enough recycling carts on the road and investing in new machinery. That’s why Closed Loop recently directed $45.4 million to modernize the capabilities of New York’s Sims Municipal Recycling, one of the most impactful waste facilities in North America. New York City produces 14 million tons of trash every year; and Sims is at the helm of ensuring the value of plastic is not wasted.
Dow’s President of Packaging & Specialty Plastics, Diego Donoso, sees the investment in New York’s recycling capabilities as essential to advancing the sustainable transition: "When Dow joined the Circular Plastics Fund as an initial investor, we envisioned projects like the Sims Municipal Recycling acquisition. I know this is just the first of several significant projects that will grow and improve recycling infrastructure in the US as a result of the Fund."
The ripple effect
Sims operates some of the highest-volume recycling services in the country. It processes and markets more than 200,000 tons of plastic, glass and metal collected in New York every year; the majority of which flows through the Sunset Park Materials Recovery Facility in Brooklyn — the largest dual-stream recycling facility in North America.
It’s been proven that when a city embraces sustainability initiatives, it causes a suburban ripple effect. That’s why the Sims investment is so important — it not only impacts New York City’s large share of the nation’s waste, but also the surrounding suburban areas — in upstate New York and Long Island, and states including New Jersey and Connecticut.
Given the sheer volume of waste spread across the expansive landscape that is the US, Closed Loop Partners’ acquisition of Sims is poised to help accelerate recycling not only in the tri-state area of New York — but across the nation.
Investments such as Sims offer proof-of-concept toward scaling additional investments in waste infrastructure in other North American cities. The modernization of Sims’ recycling capabilities acts as a circularity laboratory, allowing sustainability experts to test and iterate new capabilities that can lead to better design and modernization of our US recycling system as a whole.
Progress through partnerships
If we can learn anything from partnerships such as the Closed Loop Fund, it’s that many hands make lighter work. Wastepreneurs across the US, and the globe, envision similar benefits through enhanced waste infrastructure: cleaner, healthier and stronger communities that are a beacon of economic ingenuity and innovation for North America and the world.