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Amazon Invests $10 Million in U.S. Recycling Infrastructure

Every brand and retailer worth its IPO has been touting its embrace of the circular economy, a somewhat utopian model where products are designed to be repaired, reused and recirculated rather than disposed of as trash. This week, it’s Amazon, which, after burnishing its progressive credentials with a minimum-wage hike, announced Tuesday that it will invest $10 million in Closed Loop Fund to promote recycling in the United States.

Its largesse will help divert 1 million tons of recyclable material from the landfill into the recycling stream, the Internet Goliath said, eliminating the equivalent of 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2028 and producing the tantamount effect of “shutting down a coal-fired power plant for six months.”

Roughly half of Americans today lack access to accessible and adequate curbside recycling at their homes, Amazon noted. Closed Loop Fund, which is based in New York City, finances the construction of advanced recycling infrastructure and services to benefit communities and save municipalities money.

“This investment will help build the local capabilities needed to make it easier for our customers and their communities to recycle and to increase the amount of material recycled across the country,” said Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, in a statement. “We are investing in Closed Loop Fund’s work because we think everyone should have access to easy, convenient curbside recycling. The more we are all able to recycle, the more we can reduce our collective energy, carbon and water footprint.”

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Through its investments, Closed Loop Fund says it aims to rid the environment of more than 16 million tons of greenhouse gases, divert more than 8 million tons of waste from landfills and improve recycling for more than 18 million households over the next decade. This, it adds, will save American cities nearly $60 million.

“Amazon’s investment in Closed Loop Fund is another example of how recycling is good business in America,” said Ron Gonen, CEO of Closed Loop Fund. “Companies are seeing that they can meet consumer demand and reduce costs while supporting a more sustainable future and growing good jobs across the country. We applaud Amazon’s commitment to cut waste, and we hope [its] leadership drives other brands and retailers to follow suit.”

Amazon shipped more than 5 billion items in 2017 through its subscription-based Prime service alone, contributing to a tidal wave of packaging waste that is unlikely to abate with the growth of online retail. (Fung Global Retail & Tech projects e-commerce to account for at least 40 percent of the apparel and footwear market by 2030.) All those cardboard boxes, padded mailers and cushy air pillows have to go somewhere.

But the internet’s favorite retailer says it already has made strides to reduce its waste footprint through its Frustration-Free Packaging program, which it introduced 10 years ago. By working directly with thousands of manufacturers to help them redesign their packaging, Amazon says it has nixed more than 244,000 tons of packaging materials to date, or the equivalent of 500 million shipping cartons.