The Closed Loop Leadership Fund LP, a private investment fund managed by Closed Loop Partners (CLP), New York City, has led a consortium of investors in acquiring a majority stake in Sims Municipal Recycling (SMR) from Sims Ltd., which remains a minority stakeholder in SMR. The deal was first announced in late December 2021, with the close date originally anticipated for the third quarter of this year.
CLP says its acquisition of the 50.46 percent share of SMR for $45.4 million is expected to further modernize circular economy infrastructure and service in the New York-New Jersey Metro region, where SMR operates three recycling facilities, and in Florida where it has one recycling facility. CLP also expects the investment to expand SMR’s operations into new markets.
SMR’s Brooklyn material recovery facility (MRF) is the largest dual-stream recycling facility in North America. The company also manages the long-term New York City residential recycling contract, which is the largest municipal recycling contract in North America. In the New York-New Jersey Metro region, SMR also operates a MRF in Jersey City, New Jersey, two marine transfer stations and a glass aggregate facility.
Jessica Long, chief strategy officer and managing director at CLP, says the company has had a longstanding relationship with SMR. Maite Quinn, a CLP managing director, formerly worked at the company as director of business development and sales. “Over time, with both organizations based in New York City, both parties determined this would be a great partnership to further scale the circular economy in New York and beyond.”
Long will serve as chairperson of the SMR board.
“Closed Loop Partners’ ecosystem of investors––including strategic corporate partners like Nestlé, PepsiCo Beverages North America, Microsoft and Unilever, pension funds, family offices and foundations––are all interested in developing sustainable business models and markets for recycled content, keeping valuable materials out of landfill,” she says. “This investment, coupled with the existing portfolio of Closed Loop Partners’ managed investment funds, will enable SMR to expand its services, accelerating the development of circular economy infrastructure in the United States.”
SMR President Tom Outerbridge says, “SMR will continue to provide important recycling services to New Yorkers and communities across the NY-NJ metro region and Florida. We now have an exciting opportunity to combine our strong operating history with Closed Loop Partners’ extensive resources to strengthen circularity for the post-consumer municipal waste stream. Together, we can accelerate the modernization of recycling across the United States to close the loop on valuable materials and build a truly circular economy.”
CLP says SMR’s expansion in the coming years is expected to create additional jobs in recycling and manufacturing. When asked what form CLP envisions SMR’s expansion taking and what kind of timeline it will entail, Long says, “At SMR, we see numerous expansion opportunities, including increasing the collection of valuable materials, like metals, glass and plastics. In a circular economy, we are also excited to expand the scope of materials recovered, including food waste and textiles. Today, both food waste and textiles make up a significant component of materials going to landfill and together we want to change that.”
SMR recovers hundreds of thousands of tons of recyclables annually that it sells to mills, smelters, refiners, reclaimers and secondary material processors. Since winning the contract to service the city of New York, SMR has grown to handle more than 600,000 tons of municipal curbside material annually that is collected from more than 10 million people, CLP says.
Expanding access to recycling services and enabling local circular economy manufacturing can help cities and businesses avoid the cost of landfilling products and packaging, CLP says, while eliminating the greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacturing using virgin materials and helping to create thousands of local jobs and more resilient communities.
This investment is made possible by a group of investors, including investment funds managed by CLP, such as the Closed Loop Leadership Fund and the Closed Loop Circular Plastics Fund, as well as the Partnership Fund for New York City, among others. The Closed Loop Leadership Fund, Closed Loop Partners’ managed buyout fund, includes investors Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever, alongside family offices, pension funds and foundations. It also marks the first investment from the Closed Loop Circular Plastics Fund, Closed Loop Partners’ flexible financing fund that launched in 2021 and includes investors Dow, LyondellBasell, Nova Chemicals, Sealed Air and SK Geo Centric Co. Ltd. Closed Loop Partners’ Circular Plastics Fund finances technologies, companies and infrastructure projects that increase the quality and quantity of recycled polyethylene and polypropylene.
Long says CLP is “continuously looking for ways to improve MRFs, as that ultimately increases both the quantity and quality of materials processed and sent to end-markets for use in everyday products and packaging.” Among the technologies the company is most excited about are those that can reduce contamination and improve sorting, such as artificial intelligence and robotics, she says. “We look forward to working with SMR leadership and our ecosystem partners to identify investment opportunities at SMR’s MRFs.”
CLP’s investment in SMR demonstrates its commitment to innovate, invest and build toward its vision of a circular economy that keeps valuable materials in play, reducing costs, increasing efficiencies and protecting the environment, Long says. By taking ownership stakes in “best-in-class circular companies that we can help strengthen and grow, bringing together and leveraging synergies across our ecosystem of investors, innovators and industry experts, among others,” CLP will help to scale the circular economy, she adds.
“As a NYC-based investment and innovation firm, we are well-positioned to help grow SMR and accelerate the development of the circular economy in New York and beyond; SMR is the largest pureplay recycler in the United States, located in the biggest city in the United States, which creates an enormous opportunity for impact,” Long says.
This acquisition builds on and complements CLP’s 2019 acquisition of a majority stake in Balcones Resources in the Southwest U.S., which includes Austin among the cities that it services. “[W]e’re excited about companies like Balcones and SMR that can help us meet the needs of fast-growing cities and create the greatest impact,” Long says.
“Sims Municipal Recycling will play a critical role in powering an inclusive circular economy in New York City by reducing waste and supporting a sustainable supply chain for new products,” says Maria Gotsch, president and CEO of the Partnership Fund for New York City. “We are excited to support this acquisition which will help ensure that SMR has the resources and next-generation technology to expand its regional footprint at a time when New York is rethinking its recycling systems and transitioning to a greener economy.”
Diego Donoso, president of Dow Packaging & Specialty Plastics, one of the funders of the Closed Loop Circular Plastics Fund, says, “When Dow joined the Circular Plastics Fund as an initial investor, we envisioned projects like the Sims Municipal Recycling acquisition. I know this is just the first of several significant projects that will grow and improve recycling infrastructure in the U.S. as a result of the fund.”
“Investing in recycling infrastructure is central to Unilever’s goal to collect and process more plastic packaging than we sell by 2025,” says Niki King, head of sustainability for Unilever North America. “Sims Municipal Recycling already has one of the largest recycling facilities in North America, and we’re happy to see our investment going toward growing this company to unlock great capacity to keep materials in the circular economy.”