Creating a Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging & Film

MBOLD Executive Champion – Dimitrios Smyrnios, CEO of Schwan’s Company

MBOLD Launches Circular Economy for Flexible Film Packaging with Aim of Recovering 90 Million Pounds Per Year

May 4, 2022 - From food packaging to pallet wrap, single-use shopping bags and hay-bale wrap, the U.S. economy uses more than 12 billion pounds of flexible packaging and film every year – but only 5% of it currently gets recycled. MBOLD is tackling this challenge through a groundbreaking collaboration between MBOLD members, film recycler Myplas USA, and film manufacturer Charter Next Generation.    

Today we are pleased to announce the launch of a new circular economy initiative to expand film recycling capacity in the Upper Midwest, curtail plastic waste and cut greenhouse-gas emissions. MBOLD members General Mills, Schwan’s Company, Target, Ecolab, Cargill, Land O’Lakes, and the University of Minnesota are part of this first-ever collaboration.

The initiative includes a joint $9.2 million equity investment in film recycler Myplas USA by lead investors General Mills, Schwan’s Company and Wisconsin-based Charter Next, and supporting investors Target and Ecolab. Myplas will establish a state-of-the-art flexible-film recycling plant and its U.S. headquarters in Rogers, Minnesota. 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. That is enough flexible film to encircle the globe 137 times every year.  

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

Compared with virgin plastics, studies show that recycled polyethylene resins use 65 percent less energy, reduce water use by 59 percent, and trim global warming potential by 71 percent. By recycling flexible packaging here in Minnesota, businesses, institutions and other major users of flexible film will be able to drastically reduce long-distance trucking of film waste for recycling, further cutting emissions and creating new jobs in the local economy.

“Plastic waste is a critical sustainability issue and one that requires collaboration to tackle effectively,” said JoAnne Berkenkamp, managing director of MBOLD, an initiative of GREATER MSP. “By working together, we are creating a new circular economy that will expand access to film recycling in the Upper Midwest, increase the supply of recycled resin and cut emissions.”

Dimitrios Smyrnios, chief executive officer of Schwan's Company and MBOLD’s Executive Champion for this initiative, 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.”  

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

The Alliance to End Plastic Waste, Closed Loop Partners and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development are providing additional financial support for development of Myplas’ new recycling facility.

“This is about protecting our environment and driving innovation,” said Minnesota Department of 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.”

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MBOLD aims to make Minnesota a global leader in soil health and water stewardship in collaboration with stakeholders across our region.

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