A top Walmart executive says the $100 million recycling fund spearheaded by the retail giant will provide significant financial backing to municipal initiatives, and he said communities have moved quickly to see if they can nab a piece of the pie.
“We’re imagining an RFP-type process and we’ve already received interest from a half dozen or a dozen municipalities that have ideas that could be shovel-ready type projects,” Rob Kaplan, director of product sustainability at Walmart, said during an interview this week with Resource Recycling.
The deep-pocketed Closed Loop Fund, created by Walmart and a number of other corporate giants, was announced at the end of April and grabbed the attention of individuals from many segments of the industry. However, until now, few specifics have come out in regards to how the fund was born and how it aims to allocate its millions of dollars worth of zero-interest loans.
In an interview this week, Kaplan explained the Closed Loop Fund developed from a shared interest for more recycled content among product producers.
The executive indicated focusing on recycled content in Walmart’s packaging and products comes down to profitability. “Theoretically, if the system is optimized, it should cost less to recycle or re-refine resin than it does to pull virgin oil or petroleum out of the ground,” Kaplan said.
About a year ago Walmart helped convene a summit in New York alongside city officials and Sims Municipal Recycling, a division of the publicly traded Sims Metal Management.
Approximately 30 participants were present, with much of the discussion centered around the fact that increasing the national and global supply of recycled material is being held back by a lack of capital on the local level. Those funding shortages, corporate and municipal officials indicated, are stunting growth in the infrastructure required to efficiently boost product recovery.
“Investors and many of our suppliers have been struggling with a stagnant recycling rate over the last 15 years … and the philanthropic dollars of just giving the money hasn’t worked,” Kaplan said.
But by pooling $100 million in resources together, Kaplan says, and giving out zero-interest loans instead of free money, the Closed Loop Fund can add a “different level of reporting and measurement that allows for replicability and scale-ability.” Kaplan explained that each proposal looking to leverage money from the fund will have to ensure a return on the investment and carefully track expenditures and progress.
He added the fund will be focused broadly on landfill diversion, and organizers will be analyzing needs on a per-project basis.
The next step for the Closed Loop Fund, which will be led by the former deputy commissioner of the Department of Sanitation in New York City, Ron Gonen, will center on working with additional investors.
Organizers will also be working to identify the first set of projects to launch and create an RFP for a “broader sourcing of deals,” Kaplan says.