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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.

25 mins ago - Health

CDC updates guidance on airborne COVID-19

A patron eats lunch in March at Philippe The Original near downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The CDC acknowledged Friday that airborne spread of COVID-19 among people more than 6 feet apart "has been repeatedly documented."

Why it matters: This is "a change from the agency’s previous position that most infections were acquired through 'close contact, not airborne transmission,'" the N.Y. Times reports.

11 hours ago - World

Over 170 Palestinians injured in clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem

An injured man is carried away as Israeli security forces clash with Palestinian protesters at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

At least 178 Palestinians have been injured in clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem, Reuters reported late Friday.

The big picture: The clashes come amid growing anger over the threatened eviction of Palestinians from their homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem. Tensions have also escalated in the occupied West Bank in recent weeks.

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