Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Laura Bishop announced Thursday, Feb. 18, recipients of the state’s first round of recycling market development grants during a statewide conversation on expanding recycling markets and jobs.

Grants recipients included area companies GreenForest Recycling LLC in Brainerd and Employment Enterprises Inc. in Little Falls. The other two recipients were Northfield Curbside Compost Cooperative in Northfield and P.E.C.E. Recycling LLC in Cosmos.

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 industry’s 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, according to a news release. The recycling industry in Minnesota contributes $15 billion to the state’s economy and accounts for 36,000 direct and indirect jobs.

“Investing in Minnesota companies while expanding recycling markets is a win for our environment and economy,” Bishop stated. “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.”

Newsletter signup for email alerts

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,” stated 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 and discussed the importance of expanding markets, plus challenges and opportunities that exist within the industry.

For more information about the Recycling Market Development Grants program, visit https://bit.ly/3ubfuV4.

Pamela Baltes, Employment Enterprises, Inc.: Little Falls

Project: 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 employ 20 or more new jobs for staff with disabilities. Glass has had a negative value for a number years, costing $10-$25 per ton to have glass recycled 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

Project: Paper-sorting system.

Material: Mixed paper.

  • This project transforms lower grade mixed paper and newspaper from material recovery facilities 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 startup 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

Project: 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 the purchase of a plastic grinder, de-taping machines, cardboard baler and forklift. The project will create 200+ jobs, 176 for people with special needs.