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Photo: Axios

Large companies could spur a nationwide shift toward a circular economy, in which items are recycled back into supply chains for packaging and products, Bridget Croke, managing director of Closed Loop Partners, said Wednesday at an Axios virtual .

Why it matters: Several large companies committing to using recycled materials could substantial savings, as they move away from "spending billions of dollars throwing another multibillions of dollars of valuable materials in the trash," Croke said.

  • Some companies, like Unilever and Wal-Mart, have committed to the practice, Croke said, which will likely send a signal to the rest of the market and investors.
  • "That shows that there's a lot of business opportunity in those emerging models and that these companies are moving away from using extractive virgin plastics and materials."
Axios managing editor Alison Snyder (left) and Keefe Harrison, founder and CEO, The Recycling Partnership. Photo: Axios

Recycling is an important part of the circular economy, said Keefe Harrison, founder & CEO of The Recycling Partnership, at the event.

  • She added that the shift would require an expanded recycling system, which she describes as a "multibillion-dollar challenge," to ensure universal access.
  • "We're looking to see more engagement from Congress with new legislation in 2021 ... that will help fund that entire system and advance us toward a circular economy."

Watch the event.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 2, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on eliminating waste in the environment

Axios' Alison Snyder and Dan Primack hosted a conversation on how policymakers and businesses can work together to eliminate waste in the environment, featuring congresswoman and founder of the Congressional Plastics Solutions Task Force Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), founder and CEO of The Recycling Partnership Keefe Harrison and managing director of Closed Loop Partners Bridget Croke.

Keefe Harrison discussed the scope of the plastic waste problem and how companies can be held to higher standards around environmental protection.

  • On how quickly the plastic waste problem is accelerating: "If we don't do something by 2050, there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish. That's my number one motivator."
  • On going from a linear to a circular economy: "If we model our economy around that circular system where the products from one thing becomes fuel for another, we start to see opportunities to make sure that we're again thinking about the design and delivery of goods, not just what is something packaged in."

Bridget Croke unpacked the economic potential of a circular economy and the shift by big companies to move away from single use plastics.

  • "When a large company like a Unilever or a Wal-Mart commits to using recycled content or doing refill models, that sends a market signal. That shows there's a lot of business opportunity in those emerging models and that these companies are moving away from using kind of extractive virgin plastics and materials."

Rep. Haley Stevens discussed the challenges of new technology applications and how grants and non-profits play an important role in funding recycling programs.

  • On new recycling technology at the local level: "We've got a technology problem. The logistics are there. You've got a lot of households that have fully embraced recycling. You've got municipalities who are prepared for it. Where they're stopped is on costs."

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with American Chemistry Council president and CEO Chris Jahn and discussed modernizing recycling and the future of plastics.

  • On how to rethink plastics as a material: "Advanced recycling is a key part of the puzzle here in fixing these issues. And from our perspective, we need to fundamentally alter how we think about waste and plastic waste. We need to look at plastic as a valuable resource in the same way that we do aluminum or paper. We can take those products and break them back down into their basic building blocks and then reuse them for new products."

Thank you American Chemistry Council for sponsoring this event.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19 — Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Vulnerable Democrats: Less Trump talk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Vulnerable House Democrats are convinced they need to talk less about the man who helped them get elected: President Trump.

Why it matters: Democrats are privately concerned nationalizing the 2022 mid-terms with emotionally-charged issues — from Critical Race Theory to Donald Trump's role in the Jan. 6 insurrection — will hamstring their ability to sell the local benefits of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda.

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