A much-talked-about initiative to boost recycling is taking a big swing at plastics right out of the gate.
The Closed Loop Fund, as part of its initial round of investments, is putting $2 million into what it calls a “game changing solution” to recycle Nos. 3-7 plastics along the East Coast.
A joint venture between QRS Recycling and Canusa Hershman Recycling Co. is developing a plastic recycling facility, or PRF, in Baltimore that is combining scale and technology, said Rob Kaplan, co-founder and managing director of the Closed Loop Fund.
Closed Loop calls itself a social impact investment fund that provides low-interest loans to municipalities and companies to boost recycling efforts around the country.
“We're really excited about the Canusa-QRS facility because it hits across a few different levels. First, it's a new scale for this kind of PRF,” Kaplan said in a Sept. 25 interview. “So they are able to process 4,500 tons a month and at the same time with the scale, they are able to build a market for all of these hard-to-recycle plastics. So it's both a sortation and a PRF advancement, an upgrade, as well as an end-market development.”
QRS already has proven the approach on a smaller scale elsewhere, he said.
“It's an incredibly advanced PRF,” Kaplan said. “They've been operating at a much smaller scale in St. Louis and Atlanta, so these guys have proven their model. They've also proven their end markets. They have customers and they have suppliers and they know there is a market on the East Coast.”
A key to the PRF, Kaplan said, is the ability to both flake and pelletize at the same location. “They're essentially cutting a step out of the process to make the margins greater for the facility.”
The Closed Loop Fund is supported by consumer goods, retail and financial companies to help advance recycling. The fund provides no-interest or low-interest loans to both municipalities and companies. This is its first round of funding.
“Our investors, some of the leading consumer goods and retailers in the world, believe that recycling works and we're investing what it takes to prove these models to increase recycling around the country, and specifically around plastics, but other materials as well. We're focused on proving that these models can work and expand and replicate around the United States,” Kaplan said.
Along with the Baltimore project, the Closed Loop Fund also is providing a $3.1 million loan for Portage County, Ohio, and a $2.7 million loan for Quad Cities, Iowa, for the switch from dual-stream to single-stream recycling. Single-stream recycling allows residents to put all of their materials in a single container that is then sorted out by processors. This makes recycling easier for consumers and boosts participation and volumes, but is more challenging on the processing side compared with dual-stream recycling that relies on citizens to do some of the sorting work.
“Working in conjunction with other QRS facilities, the Baltimore PRF targets virtually all polymers in a single stream mix for recovery, returning high volumes of quality material to the manufacturing base. This purpose nests perfectly with the mission of the Closed Loop Fund and we are excited for their support,” said Greg Janson, CEO of QRS, in a statement.
The Baltimore facility will take in plastic from Maine to South Carolina, according to the fund.