Close the Loop is an Australian-owned recycling and resource recovery business, with a worldwide reputation for the provision of creative end-of-life product management services. The company, which was established by Executive Director Steve Morriss in 2001, began the Cartridges for Planet Ark program in 2003, one of the most successful multi-vendor product stewardship programs ever carried out, both within Australia and internationally. The company has since experienced significant expansion, establishing an overseas branch in Kentucky in 2007 that has since grown to dwarf its Australian operations.
One of Close the Loop’s most notable points of success is the substantial collection network that the company has developed within the infrastructure sector, which currently consists of over 35000 collection points across the country. “Our reverse logistics is very important to us, and it is a real key to the success of the programs that we run,” says Sales and Marketing Manager Peter Tamblyn, who mentions that despite its growth, Close the Loop has maintained a strong focus on its niche core business; the expert handling of toner and ink cartridges from printers. Toner powder in particular is known to be an extremely dangerous material to handle, as its fine consistency renders it highly explosive. After breaking down the collected cartridges, the company uses the materials to create a variety of unique products, including a pen that is not only constructed from recycled plastic, but uses recycled ink as well. Close the Loop’s most successful projects, however, has been its innovative TonerPave™ product, in which waste toner is used to create Modified Toner Polymer. The MTP is supplied to Close the Loop’s project partner, Downer, where it is used to produce low-carbon asphalt. “It’s the only commercially viable waste toner solution on the planet,” says Peter. “It’s a highly successful product, and it actually makes a better road.”
Close the Loop’s recycling operation is complex and challenging, with even the initial collection of waste presenting difficulties on account of its scale. As well, in order to safely handle the collected waste toner, the implementation of highly robust systems was a critical necessity. As part of its process, Close the Loop also captures as much data as possible from the waste materials that it receives, which is of significant value to the company’s OEM partners, which include HP, Lexmark, Canon, and many others.
A champion of the circular economy, Close the Loop operates under the belief that the generation of waste will soon become obsolete through the reuse, reconstitution, or resource recovery of used products. “We are very much at the forefront of that thinking,” Peter says. “It is very serious that we as a broad community, and particularly as an industry, get on board and start thinking about how we can apply what we collect into new products, because that’s a trillion dollar economy coming towards us, and if you are not on that wave, I think you’re going to get left behind.”
In recognition of the company’s unique achievements, Close the Loop has received a vast array of accreditations, certifications, and awards, many of which were presented by individual councils, including Whittlesea and Hume, where the company is based. Close the Loop was also the recipient of the Premier’s Sustainability Award in 2004, the New Inventors’ ‘People’s Choice’ Award for the development of its eWood product, a construction material created using mixed waste plastics, and the United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA) World Environment Day Award in 2006 for the Best Specific Environmental Initiative. As well, the company’s Kentucky branch was the winner of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Award in 2008, and the Gold DuPont Award for Packaging Innovation in 2013. Close the Loop also takes great pride in maintaining both R2 and EPEAT compliance, as well as ISO certification for 18001, 14001 and 9001.
Peter places great emphasis on the importance of strong business partnerships to Close the Loop. “You always drive better outcomes with good partnerships and good relationships,” he says. “You seem to focus on win/win outcomes, which is always going to bring about a much better outcome all around.” In addition to Rob Parry-Jones, Close the Loop’s global CEO, currently sitting on the board at ACOR, and Steve Morriss’ heavy involvement in the Waste Management Association, the company also works very closely alongside its OEM partners in order to gain further understanding of their needs.
In the coming years, Mr Tamblyn expects to witness an increase in product stewardship, as well as a simultaneous obsolescence of companies that fail to adapt to such a development. “People who continue to run a business that is focused merely on carting waste, and not actually driving outcomes or innovative new products out of those waste streams, risk becoming irrelevant,” he says.
After working for over 2 decades in senior sales leadership positions of the IT Industry, Peter Tamblyn joined Close the Loop as Sales and Marketing Manager for the Asia Pacific region in May of 2014. “It’s been a really amazing ride for me personally, this company is completely inspiring,” he says. Upon joining the business, Peter initially found that, as an organization, Close the Loop had focused heavily on its role as a recycler, without placing enough emphasis on driving value for its partners. “My future objective is to continue driving the value journey, and making sure that our partners are getting real value from what we do for them, and not just be a supplier of recycling; I think that’s really important,” he says. “Our entire focus as an organization is driving value.”