rePurpose Global Launches $1M Reuse Outcomes Fund

Reuse Outcomes Fund is a first-of-its-kind, $1M prototype fund aimed at scaling reuse and refill solutions especially serving low and middle-income communities, in order to accelerate both measurable environmental outcomes and equitable access to waste reduction solutions worldwide. Learn why we need reuse and refill for all, and how do we get there?

We need Reuse and Refill for All, but how do we get there?

Imagine a world where everything we use can be given another life. Where fridges stocked with single-use products are replaced with refill stations in every convenience store you walk into, and where the ‘Milk Man’ model of delivering essential goods is the norm as opposed to the exception.

This is the promise of the reuse movement - a glorious vision of zero waste that requires a systemic rewiring of global supply chains, decades-long commitments from companies and governments, and a 180° shift in the desires and behaviors of billions of households across the globe.  

It goes without saying that we are incredibly far away from such a reality. For every reuse or refill action that takes place in real life today, millions of instances of "make, take, and throw away" contribute to the exponentially worsening plastic pollution crisis and set us back from a world that is free from the burden of waste.

Faced with this colossal challenge, what exactly do we do? How do we advance reuse and refill from advocacy narratives, multi-stakeholder discourse, and corporate sustainability reports into the reach of municipalities, businesses, and households across every strata of society? Let's dive in.

Why now?

The circular economy movement is at a crossroads.

A movement that was born decades earlier, brought to the limelight 6 years ago by the likes of the David Attenborough Effect, and carried forward since by tens of thousands of practitioners, advocates, and organizations like us here at rePurpose Global, has found itself at at a critical moment: one that is both fraught with risks and ripe with potential.

On the one hand, it is being hampered by a significant intention-action gap where bold narratives are often not followed through by actual progress, fractured by a lack of radically objective collaboration amongst different camps of the movement with uniquely vested interests, and challenged by both inquisitive journalists and exasperated practitioners on its very premise and definition.  

On the flipside: a promising United Nations global plastics treaty being negotiated at this very moment, growing consensus amongst businesses that circularity is a must-do as opposed to a nice-to-have, and hundreds of rapidly onsetting packaging regulations in virtually every major jurisdiction.

For the past 6 years, we at rePurpose Global participated and helped shape this movement from the very front row, and in doing so, have followed its evolution to the crossroads we find ourselves standing at today. And for the next 6 years that remain of this defining decade, how we show up matters.

The imperative to broaden our horizons and meaningfully accelerate the pace and scale of action has never been more important. And that's why, over the course of March and April, rePurpose Global is beyond excited to announce a series of strategic initiatives that we have developed to significantly broaden our theory of change and approach to supporting the next phase of evolution towards a global circular economy.

The Reuse Outcomes Fund

To start, we are thrilled to announce the launch of our brand new Reuse Outcomes Fund: a first-of-its-kind, $1M prototype fund aimed at scaling reuse and refill solutions especially serving low and middle-income communities, in order to accelerate both measurable environmental outcomes and equitable access to waste reduction solutions worldwide.

Starting with three target countries (US, Canada, India), the Fund will finance the deployment of critically lacking reuse and refill infrastructure, focusing on consumer goods sectors with high levels of single-use plastic intensity such as grocery, foodservice, personal & home care, and e-commerce.

Central to the Fund’s theory of change is an Outcomes-Based Financing modality where unlike traditional input-based philanthropy or profit-oriented investments, rePurpose Global will fund the implementation of reuse solutions with the sole objective of achieving measurable, additional, and verifiable environmental outcomes (i.e. tons of plastic waste avoided by reuse interventions), prioritizing impact return over financial return.

In addition to scaling solutions directly, the Reuse Outcomes Fund will also tackle systemic challenges associated with increasing penetration of reuse and refill. As a part of this initiative, rePurpose Global will help advance the development of high-integrity frameworks and implementation standards, aimed at guiding the scale-up of waste reduction models worldwide. We will also build knowledge repositories that document project implementation best practices, making them transferable and replicable.

Tackling systemic challenges

According to a recent UN report, transitioning to a truly circular economy represents the most effective approach to combating plastic pollution — with approximately 70% waste reduction achievable through reuse, refill and new delivery models. However, the reuse movement encounters several systemic barriers that will be tackled by the Reuse Outcomes Fund. Here's a closer look:

1. Prohibitively high set-up costs: The implementation of reuse and refill has predominantly been driven by a small cohort of passionate startups and innovators to date. Despite their noble intentions, these solutions often come with a large 'green premium'. This premium presents a formidable barrier of initial switching and system set-up costs that discourage adoption. 
2. Early-stage solutions, unproven track record: Most reuse and refill solutions are still in their infancy and lack the track record or technological maturity required to secure the financial backing necessary for scale-up. This creates a classic 'chicken and egg' dilemma: scaling is contingent on funding, yet securing funds is challenging without a proven model.
3. Limited access to rapid & flexible financing: traditional financing instruments (e.g. loans, venture capital, multilateral development financing) are not adequate or sufficiently fit-for-purpose against the complexities and early-stage nature of reuse solutions. Innovators often find themselves excluded, as they face difficulties in meeting stringent requirements of financial returns and navigating bureaucratic processes. The need for financing that is as accessible and flexible as the innovations it seeks to support is critical. Without novel financial mechanisms to meet the gap, the chances of accelerating systems change will be significantly diminished.

Outcomes-Based Waste Prevention

Equipped by rePurpose Global's wealth of experience in creating and meaningfully scaling dozens of Outcomes-Based waste collection and recycling projects across 8 countries, we are thrilled to bring this innovative project finance and implementation modality to the world of reuse and refill.

By gearing up philanthropic funding to specifically work towards achieving quantifiable waste reduction outputs (e.g. equivalent weight of single-use plastic bottles avoided by the installation of a water refill station, tonnage of packaging waste avoided by the delivery and return of groceries in reusable containers), we aspire to bring the important principles of Effective Altruism into a circular economy movement that is racing against the clock of accelerating environmental degradation and desperately needs to translate good intentions into concrete results. Here's what this actually looks like:

Such a rigorous endeavor to fund, create, and verify environmental outcomes (namely the tonnage of waste avoided above and beyond the baseline scenario per dollar invested into any given reuse and refill project) not only introduces unparalleled levels of accountability, but also ensures that the most impactful solutions receive the support they need. In addition, this collaborative, meticulous process strengthens the technical capacity of reuse and refill innovators, while helping drive confidence and attract more support from philanthropic and corporate funders alike. A true virtuous cycle, one that the reuse movement needs to accelerate its traction.

Reuse for all, not just the few

At the heart of our mission at rePurpose Global is a resolve to ensure that sustainability is accessible and inclusive to all, not just the privileged few. The Reuse Outcomes Fund is a critical extension of our mission, acknowledging that true environmental progress must walk hand-in-hand with social equity. The Fund conceptualization has been rooted in environmental justice principles, aiming to address the critique that reuse efforts have often been viewed as inaccessible to economically disadvantaged populations. This has been due to higher upfront costs and disproportionate availability of reuse solutions to wealthier demographics, overlooking the needs and challenges of those less privileged.

Our intention here is about recognizing and including the underserved, bringing circular solutions within their reach, and making sure that the movement for reuse doesn't leave anyone behind. To us, the Reuse Outcomes Fund is more than just environmental action; it's a collective step towards a future where every individual has the opportunity to contribute to and benefit from the global circular economy.

Looking ahead

The circular economy, a term that has been both lauded and critiqued, remains a beacon for all of us striving to redefine humanity's relationship with waste. Yet as we delve deeper, it's clear that the path forward requires seismic action.

As rePurpose Global embarks on this mission to extend Outcomes-Based Waste Prevention from collection and recycling to the universe of reuse and refill, we know that we can't do it alone. We need feedback from all camps of the circular economy movement, and would like to take this opportunity to extend an open invitation to leaders and doers across business, advocacy, government, and academia to join us in this endeavor.

As we celebrate rePurpose Global's sixth anniversary this year, we are at the cusp of bringing in the next chapter of our mission and journey. The Reuse Outcomes Fund is the first of several defining steps that we can't wait to share with you all in the coming weeks - stay tuned and watch this space!

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