Amazon is investing millions to keep packaging out of landfills
Efforts to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills in the United States is attracting big-name investors.Posted — Updated
Amazon (AMZN) announced last week that it would invest $10 million in the Closed Loop Fund, joining other companies including Coca-Cola (KO), Walmart (WMT), PepsiCo (PEP) and Unilever (UL).
Closed Loop invests in recycling programs, sustainable goods and landfill reduction efforts. It does so through venture capital and impact investment funds designed to produce both financial and environmental returns.
There's plenty of work to be done: The United Nations says about 300 million tons of plastic waste are produced every year, and global plastic production is expected to triple by 2050.
Amazon shipments generate a lot of waste. Cardboard is easily recycled but bubble wrap and select plastics often end up in the trash.
One company backed by Closed Loop is TemperPack, which develops sustainable alternatives to plastic packaging.
Its products include a paper-based substitute for bubble wrap, and a sustainable type of packaging for perishable goods that it claims insulates as well as Styrofoam.
"Bubble wrap was a big one for us," says John Briney, the company's director of marketing. "Most people assume it can be easily recycled, but just like plastic films, only specific facilities accept it."
It's the same story for Styrofoam, which isn't widely recycled. TemperPack's substitutes are "certified fully curbside recyclable."
Closed Loop has also invested in Integrico Composites, a company that makes railroad ties out of recycled plastic, and Loliware, which produces edible straws.
Bridget Croke, vice president of external affairs at Closed Loop, said the problem of plastic pollution requires a "nuanced" approach.
"With some plastics, we can explore new materials to replace them sustainably," she said. "And with other plastics, we can find better ways to recycle and reuse them."
She said increased global attention to plastic is "definitely bringing more innovation to the table."
Impact investors, who want to use their money to produce a social benefit, are capitalizing on this innovation.
London-based venture capital firm Creolus is raising money for a £50 million ($65 million) fund focused on bioplastics.
"We are looking at the plastic already made, and looking at ways to recycle it more efficiently," said founder Jeffrey Eneberi. "We are also looking at new materials with similar properties to plastic, but without the negative impact on the planet."
Creolus' early investors are wealthy individuals and family foundations. The team has already identified a pipeline of almost 60 potential investments, and expects to begin investing by next March.
"We need to change," said Eneberi. "We need to start having conversations about alternatives. We need to create an ecosystem where investors, innovators and big companies come together to find solutions ... and fast."
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