Minnesota-based Initiative Launches Circular Economy for Flexible Films

A partnership led by Minnesota’s MBOLD coalition will expand film recycling infrastructure and the supply of recycled resin for use in new products.

With investment from MBOLD members and other stakeholders, Myplas USA will establish a state-of-the-art flexible film recycling plant in Rogers, Minnesota, northwest of Minneapolis.

Slated to begin operations in spring 2023, the 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, according to a news release about the project. The plant will employ about 300 people.

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, as well as supporting investors Target and Ecolab.

“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,” says Jeff Harmening, chairman and CEO of General Mills and MBOLD co-chair.

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 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.

The U.S. uses 12 billion to 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. However, an estimated 5% of flexible films used in the U.S. are recycled each year, with the rest being landfilled, incinerated, or released into the environment, according to the news release.

“We are building a regional ecosystem to support circular approaches for flexible film,” says JoAnne Berkenkamp, managing director of MBOLD, an initiative of GREATER MSP (Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul). “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.”

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% reduction in global warming potential, the news release states.

“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,” says Andrew Pieterse, Myplas USA CEO. “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 health care film products.

“This collaboration with MBOLD and Myplas USA is forging a new future for packaging innovation,” says Kathy Bolhous, CEO of Charter Next Generation. “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.”

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 also will explore opportunities to direct film waste to Myplas USA for recycling once the plant is operational.