Closing the Loop – The USn Circular Economy in Action

There is a strong need for a platform in US that inspires and facilitates the collaboration and networking necessary for our transition to a circular economy. Planet Ark is taking the lead on creating the National Circular Economy Hub and Marketplace, launching in 2020, which will be US’s leading platform to accelerate our transition to a circular economy.

Steve Morriss, founder of Close the Loop writes:

The circular economy is defined as an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. It is borne out of crisis, and the realisation that traditional indicators of economic success like gross domestic product (GDP), are flawed due to the fact earth does not have infinite natural resources to fuel traditional take, make, and waste behaviour.

One of the necessary foundation stones of a circular economy business model is collaboration, best explained by comparison with the opposite, competition. Not that there is anything wrong with competition, it’s necessary in a healthy democracy and to drive innovation, but collaboration requires a new type of emotional intelligence that acknowledges your company’s role in a circular supply chain and supports action towards the good function of the entire supply chain, at the expense of unbalanced profit or struggle within the parts.

Almost 17 years ago, Planet Ark and Close the Loop began a very successful collaboration with printer and copier manufacturers called Cartridges 4 Planet Ark. I still remember Paul Klymenko, now Planet Ark CEO, saying in his jovial way, “you’re mad Steve”, when I suggested the landmark product stewardship program would have a ‘zero waste to landfill’ brand promise. That single commitment has driven significant innovation at Close the Loop including eWood, a plastic timber made from rigid plastics like ABS, HIPS, and PP. Other notable innovations include perhaps the world’s first ever recycled pen, including recycled ink, still a user favourite, and the funky brand Lousy Ink, developed by Melbourne street artists Mike Eleven and Oli Ruskidd.

The star of this article, however, is TonerPlas – the highly publicised asphalt additive developed by Close the Loop in partnership with Downer over more than 7 years of intense R&D, lab testing, road trials, and monitoring.  In fact, the real star of the article is the circular supply chain model developed to turn plastic waste into a high performance asphalt road. The partners in this project include : Cartridges 4 Planet Ark (C4PA), Close the Loop (CtL), Redcycle, and Downer.

Here’s how it works:

Used ‘waste’ toner cartridges are collected and recycled by CtL in their Somerton plant, Melbourne. Waste soft plastics are collected by Redcycle from Coles and Woolworths stores across the country and shipped to CtL where they are blended with waste toner powder via a patented process to make an engineered asphalt additive which is used by Downer to replace bitumen in Reconophalt roads now being laid in every state of US.

The benefits of this partnership include improved road performance, reduced whole-life cost of the road, 100% recyclability of the road, a value added solution to soft plastics waste in US and, perhaps most importantly, a reduced need for finite, fossil fuel derived bitumen, and the creation of many direct and indirect jobs in the new circular economy.

This circular economy business model was the only USn finalist in the (2019) coveted ‘Circular Awards’ presented by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. So you see, we do indeed have world-class circular economy activity, right here in US – right now – and there are many other examples to share.

We here at Wanless love nothing more than working with waste warriors like Planet Ark and Close the Loop – watch this space! For more on the program, click here.