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Chipotle works to 'upcycle'

Recycling firm turns chain’s plastic gloves into trash liners by Andrew Moreau | February 2, 2020 at 1:38 a.m.

Revolution Plastics is working with Chipotle Mexican Grill to convert plastic gloves into trash liners in a pilot program that could potentially be used in Chipotle restaurants across the nation.

Chipotle has been a Revolution customer for 12 years, purchasing recycled trash-can liners that fit with the chain's commitment to sustainability.

When Chipotle looked at options to reduce waste created by plastic gloves that its employees use, the company turned to Revolution for help.

Together, the two are conducting a trial that recycles the gloves used by workers at 25 West Coast restaurants. The initiative started with eight restaurants in Portland and expanded to 17 in the Sacramento area.

Revolution's work fit in with Chipotle's sustainability efforts, said Caitlin Leibert, director of sustainability for Chipotle.

"Revolution's dedication to using a circular economy recycling process is a sustainable business model we like to support," she said. "Finding a creative solution has resulted in the ability to eliminate glove plastic waste at all restaurants we are piloting the program at. We are looking at continuing to grow this pilot to additional locations."

That effort by Chipotle to reduce its waste stream is gaining interest from other industries.

"In addition to giving single-use plastic a second life, our partnership with Revolution has inspired others to re-think their own waste stream and the potential for creating sustainable programs with scalability," she added.

Chipotle has about 2,500 restaurants in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

After Chipotle shared details about its gloves-to-bags initiative, other restaurants, hospitals and the travel industry reached out to learn more about creating their own program, Leibert said.

Sustainability efforts are shaping private-equity investments and shining a spotlight on companies like Revolution, which estimates it recovers, cleans and processes 150 million pounds of discarded plastic each year. The majority of that work is done at a 20-acre, 30,000-square-foot facility in Stuttgart. Since its founding in 1993, Revolution estimates that it has diverted 1.5 billion pounds of waste from landfills.

Businesses like Revolution that have fully integrated sustainability practices as part of their culture are attracting more attention from private equity investors like Arsenal.

In January, BlackRock, the world's largest money manager, announced it would emphasize sustainability and make climate-change issues a priority in its investment strategy.

"Climate change has become a defining factor in companies' long-term prospects," BlackRock Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink said in his annual letter to chief executives. "But awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance."

Last April, Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol called attention to the gloves-to-bags initiative in the company's first sustainability report under his leadership. He noted that the restaurant industry throws 200 million plastic gloves into the trash every year.

"The idea was to upcycle our plastic gloves by turning them into the trash bag liners that we use in our restaurants, which creates a closed loop," Niccol wrote in the report. "While this program can help us cut down on our disposable waste, it can also drive creatively-inspired, collaborative thinking that can be equally as impactful for our entire industry."

SundayMonday Business on 02/02/2020

Print Headline: Chipotle works to 'upcycle'


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