Friday, September 25, 2015

Big new fund looks to invest to revitalize recycling in U.S.

 New recycling plant in Baltimore from recycling company QRS.
A New fund wants to disrupt recycling with the help of $100 million from corporate giants like Walmart, Goldman Sachs, and Coca-Cola.
Katie Fehrenbacher reports for Fortune that: 
By this time next year a major high-tech recycling plant in Baltimore could be sorting 54,000 tons of recycled plastic materials—yogurt cups, milk cartons, plastic soda bottles— annually and servicing a 500-mile radius area across the East Coast. It will be one of the largest of its kind in the U.S.

While the factory’s laser technology, which identifies and sorts different types of waste, is cutting edge, it’s not really what makes the plant so remarkable. That would be how the factory was financed.

The Baltimore recycling plant is one of the first projects funded by a new group called Closed Loop Fund. It has amassed $100 million from ten of the largest U.S. consumer goods companies including Walmart  WMT 0.42% , Coca-Cola  KO 2.04% , PepsiCo  PEP 1.55% , Johnson & Johnson  JNJ 0.41% , Procter & Gamble  PG 2.01% , Unilever  UN 3.70% , 3M  MMM 1.30% , and Goldman Sachs  GS 1.87% .

The fund uses its checkbook to provide zero interest loans to cities and companies that want to build new recycling centers and projects. Company QRS, which is building the plastic recycling plant in Baltimore, used $2 million from the fund, and combined that with other types of financing, to support the new site’s construction.

The idea is so simple, it’s snooze-worthy. But unlocking capital for such an underdeveloped industry could be transformational.

“Recycling has been stagnant for the last five to ten years in the U.S.,” Closed Loop Fund co-founder Rob Kaplan told Fortune in an interview.

The U.S. has few nationwide waste and recycling standards, and cities—many strapped for cash—have often been unable to find money to pay for new recycling facilities and programs. But many of the companies that generate the most waste hope for more recycling infrastructure and recycled goods.

Enter the fund to close the gap. Last year, Kaplan, Walmart’s former director of sustainability, and Ron Gonen, Mayor Bloomberg’s former New York City deputy commissioner of recycling and sustainability, founded the fund.

After working out the many details, the group on Thursday announced that it has funded its first three projects. The Baltimore plant is just one of them.

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