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News release

February 18, 2021


Lauren Lewandowski, 651-270-9615,

MPCA awards market development grants to four Minnesota recycling companies

During a statewide conversation on expanding recycling markets and jobs, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner Laura Bishop today announced recipients of the state’s first round of recycling market development grants. Commissioner Bishop praised representatives of four Minnesota recycling operations — all located in Greater Minnesota — with developing innovative projects that help drive stronger markets for recycled materials while also creating more than 200 new jobs. The winners discussed their industries challenges and opportunities during the roundtable discussion also attended by legislators, local elected officials, and members of the public.

Recycling helps to both create a healthier environment by keeping waste from landfills and grow a stronger economy. The recycling industry in Minnesota contributes $15 billion to the state’s economy, and accounts for 36,000 direct and indirect jobs.

In her opening remarks, Commissioner Bishop said, “Investing in Minnesota companies while expanding recycling markets is a win for our environment and economy. These four companies have developed innovative ways to drive higher values for raw materials while creating new jobs. We need to make more of these investments and help Minnesota companies grow.”

Grant recipients:

  • Employment Enterprises, Inc (Little Falls)
  • GreenForest Recycling, LLC (Brainerd)
  • Northfield Curbside Compost Cooperative (Northfield)
  • P.E.C.E. Recycling, LLC (Cosmos)

The MPCA grants are funding four projects focusing on glass, mixed paper, and organics. This inaugural grant round awarded a total of $400,000, ranging in size from $51,945 to $149,763 to projects expected to generate 230 new jobs. This grant program was approved by the Minnesota Legislature in 2019.

“We are grateful to the MPCA and the Legislature for supporting our industry,” said Pam Baltes of Employment Enterprises, Inc. in Little Falls. “This grant is paying for equipment that means glass recycling collectors won’t have to pay expensive transportation costs to far off facilities. It’s a step toward making glass recycling work financially.”

Company representatives from each of the four award recipients described their projects during and discussed the importance of expanding markets, plus challenges, and opportunities that exist within the industry.

Pamela Baltes, Employment Enterprises, Inc (Little Falls)
Research and development to convert glass to sandblast material
Material: Glass

This project will convert 71 tons of glass to marketable sandblast grit in multiple sizes. At completion, the project will use 500 tons of glass per year and create 20 or more new jobs for staff with disabilities. Glass has had a negative value for a number of years, costing $10-$25 per ton to recycle in the Twin Cities. This project allows for a glass recycling option in northern Minnesota and saves collectors money on transportation. The grant funds equipment fabrication and purchase, packaging containers, and safety equipment.

Jeff Grunenwald, GreenForest Recycling, LLC (Brainerd)
Paper-sorting system
Material: Mixed paper

This project transforms lower grade mixed paper and newspaper from material recovery facilities (MRFs) that has often been landfilled or sold for low cost into more coveted paper grade. The goal is to sell this higher-grade paper to Minnesota companies that have a greater demand for cleaner paper grades. Initial start-up goals are 700-1,000 tons per month, increasing to 2,300-3,000 per month within a year. Equipment purchased with this grant will pre-clean the material before it hits the polishing screens. It is expected to create eight new staff positions.

Helen Forsythe, Northfield Curbside Compost Cooperative (Northfield)
Expanding organic waste collection, processing and availability
Material: Organics (food)

This project will double the volume of collected compostable material from Northfield households that would otherwise go to landfills by doubling the number of subscribers. Collection is available to single-family housing as well as apartment dwellings not typically included in collection programs. Curbside Compost Cooperative will build a local processing site to compost waste material into a finished product totaling a volume of 1,600 cubic yards per year. Estimated job creation is one staff person. The grant funds purchase of equipment as well as marketing and community education.

Donnie Hopp, P.E.C.E. Recycling, LLC (Cosmos)
Project: Increasing recycling of challenging materials in Minnesota
Material: Vinyl film, cardboard cores, polypropylene drums

This project expands operations to recycle vinyl tape into vinyl hose and other products. Cardboard cores from tape rolls will be shredded for livestock bedding in dairy barn and reclaimed polypropylene drums for transporting materials will be recycled into granulated plastics. A total of 1.35 million pounds of plastic will be diverted from landfills and recycled into higher-value materials for making new products. The grant supports purchase of a plastic grinder, de-taping machines, cardboard baler, and forklift. The project will create 200+ jobs, 176 for people with special needs.

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