Flexible film recycling coming to Minnesota

A group of Minnesota companies is working with plastic film recycler Myplas USA, Inc. to build a flexible film recycling plant in Minnesota.

General Mills, Schwan’s Company, Target, Ecolab, Cargill, Land O’Lakes, Inc. and the University of Minnesota, and led by Greater MSP, the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership, have formed the MBOLD coalition, and will invest in the Myplas plant.

Slated to begin operations in spring 2023, this new 170,000-square-foot mechanical recycling plant aims to recycle nearly 90 million pounds of low- and high-density polyethylene packaging and film annually when it’s at full capacity. The plant will be located in Rogers, Minn., northwest of Minneapolis, and will employ about 300 people.

“We are excited to collaborate across industries to advance recycling innovation for flexible films used in product packaging and more,” said Jeff Harmening, chairman and chief executive officer of General Mills and MBOLD co-chair.

“This initiative reflects General Mills’ commitment to regenerating our planet and shows what’s possible when we work together to find creative solutions to shared challenges.”

Low recycling rate

The U.S. uses 12-15 billion pounds of flexible packaging and films annually, including types of food packaging, shopping bags, shrink wrap, pallet wrap, e-commerce mailers, lawn and garden bags, and hay bale wrap, among many other products. However, only an estimated five percent of flexible films used in the U.S. is recycled each year, with the rest being landfilled, incinerated or even released into the environment.

“We are building a regional ecosystem to support circular approaches for flexible film,” said JoAnne Berkenkamp, managing director of MBOLD. “By working together, we are catalyzing a new circular economy that will expand access to film recycling in the Upper Midwest, increase the supply of recycled resin for use in new film products and cut emissions.”

The initiative includes a combined US$9.2 million equity investment in Myplas USA by lead investors General Mills, Schwan’s Company and Wisconsin-based film manufacturer Charter Next Generation, and supporting investors Target and Ecolab.

Lifecycle benefits

Compared with virgin plastics, studies show that use of recycled polyethylene resins offers significant life cycle benefits, including a 65% reduction in total energy used, a 59% reduction in water consumption and a 71 percent reduction in global warming potential. 

“Myplas has a deep passion for plastics recycling, and we’re proud to establish our first U.S. plant and our U.S. headquarters in Minnesota,” said Andrew Pieterse, Myplas USA chief executive officer.

“Our partners’ commitment, investment and innovative thinking, paired with Myplas’ technical expertise, will be transformative for the entire region. We can’t wait to get started.”

Building demand for recycled polyethylene resin is also key to a thriving circular economy. To that end, Charter Next Generation will purchase recycled resin from Myplas for use in a variety of food, industrial and healthcare film products. MBOLD members Cargill, General Mills, Schwan’s Company, Land O’Lakes and the University of Minnesota will evaluate potential product applications using recycled resin with specialty films producer Charter Next Generation. Land O’Lakes, Cargill, Schwan’s Company and the University of Minnesota will explore opportunities to direct film waste to Myplas USA for recycling once the plant is operational. 

The Alliance to End Plastic Waste and Closed Loop Partners are each providing multi-million dollar debt financing to Myplas USA to support development of the new recycling facility. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is also supporting Myplas USA through $1 million from the Minnesota Investment Fund and $450,000 from the Minnesota Job Creation Fund.