Minnesota-Based Initiative Launches Circular Economy for Flexible Films
A groundbreaking partnership led by Minnesota’s MBOLD coalition has united leading global businesses and research institutions to catalyze a regional circular economy for flexible films and packaging materials in the Upper Midwest. MBOLD members General Mills, Schwan’s Company, Target, Ecolab, Cargill, Land O’Lakes, Inc. and the University of Minnesota are collaborating across the value chain with film recycler Myplas USA, Inc. and film manufacturer Charter Next Generation.
This new initiative will expand film recycling infrastructure and the supply of recycled resin for use in new products, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and curtailing waste. With investment from MBOLD members and other stakeholders, Myplas USA will establish a state-of-the-art flexible film recycling plant in Minnesota, its first in the U.S. 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 at full capacity.
“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.”
The U.S. uses 12-15 billion pounds of flexible packaging and films annually, including select 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. are 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, an initiative of GREATER MSP. “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 $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. Myplas’ new film recycling plant will be located in Rogers, Minn., northwest of Minneapolis, and will employ about 300 people.
Dimitrios Smyrnios, Schwan’s Company’s chief executive officer, said, “Reducing the environmental impact of our packaging is a core commitment for Schwan’s. That’s why we’re part of this joint equity investment in new recycling infrastructure. By returning flexible film to new uses, we can reduce waste and curtail dependence on virgin plastic. It’s good for the environment and our business.”
Compared with virgin plastics, studies show that use of recycled polyethylene resins offers significant life cycle benefits, including a 65 percent reduction in total energy used, a 59 percent reduction in water consumption and a 71 percent reduction in global warming potential1.
“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 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.
Charter Next Generation Chief Executive Officer Kathy Bolhous said, “This collaboration with MBOLD and Myplas USA is forging a new future for packaging innovation. It will broaden our sustainable film portfolio, create an urgently needed solution for the region and help meet the growing demand for recycled content in packaging.”
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 their new Minnesota 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.
“This is about protecting our environment and driving innovation,” said the State’s Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove. “It’s about bringing a new industry to Minnesota and showing the world how the private and public sectors can come together to solve problems. The State of Minnesota is proud to support this effort, and we’re grateful to the companies that made it happen.”