Market development innovations
The Market Development team works to improve and expand overall recycling markets serving Minnesota. Here are a few of the innovative projects involving particular materials or applications.
An asphalt shingle contains the same basic ingredients as hot-mix asphalt: aggregate, asphalt cement and mineral filler. Shingle scrap can be recycled by incorporating it into bituminous paving mixtures. MPCA has been involved in research and testing that show these recycled mixtures offer high performance, potential cost savings, and measurable benefits to the environment.
Container glass is generally recycled back into new containers to package food and beverages, but there are alternative uses for post-consumer glass that have been successful in Minnesota.
More than 15 Minnesota counties have used reclaimed glass as aggregate. While many different applications have been demonstrated in Minnesota and other states, the use of 10% blend for road base is the most common, well-proven and safe.
Glass can be used in surface-cleaning applications in place of traditional sandblasting media. "Glass-blasting" may be done with reusable glass beads made from recycled glass, or with crushed glass.
Plastics from electronics
In an effort to support the recycling of used electronic products in Minnesota and the region, the Market Development program initiated a project to develop demand for engineering plastics from used TV housings. The project had several specific objectives: support electronics product stewardship efforts, identify opportunities and barriers to closed-loop recycling of plastics from electronics, and determine how recycling of these plastics might reduce the production of greenhouse gases.
In 2005, Wipers Recycling LLC (St. Paul Park, Minn.) received a $9,000 grant to purchase a 20-horsepower grinder to recycle shoes and use the one-inch pieces to produce an oil absorbent or floor-dry product. The company claims the processed fibers soak up three times their weight in oil from shop floors.
Though the machine size proved to be inadequate to produce commercial quantities of the material, the project generated enough for marketing and testing purposes. Thanks to MPCA assistance in this pilot project, Wipers Recycling LLC is currently negotiating with Homeland Security to produce and warehouse absorbents. If successful, this project could recycle some of the 6 to 11 million pounds of shoes landfilled annually in Minnesota.
Goodwill Industries (Duluth) is the recycler in a partnership that is collecting, deconstructing, and recycling mattresses. The program grew out of a 2004 pilot project involving counties in the state's northeast region, as well as business and institutional partners. As of May 2006, the project had recycled 8,278 mattresses. The project diverted 228 tons of material from regional and out-of-state landfills, saving 980 cubic yards of space with an estimated value of $30,576. Moreover, the project created three new jobs. Sale of recovered materials has generated $8,999 during the past two years; work continues to find markets for all of the recovered materials. Though in its early stages, the growing program is seen as a national model, with potential to grow statewide.
In February 2007, Bro-Tex, Inc. (Saint Paul) and Hank’s Specialties (New Brighton location), a distributor of floor-covering supplies and tools, launched a new carpet recycling program targeted at carpet installers. The program collects residential carpet pad and carpet that meet specifications for condition (including standards for cleanliness and dryness) for recycling. Bro-Tex processes the carpet and extrudes it into a new product. Installers can call for information: Hank's Specialities, 651-633-5020; Bro-Tex, 651-645-5721.