The state of Minnesota is offering $400,000 in new recycling grants to businesses wanting to divert trash from landfills to economic uses.
The state has long invested in recycling markets, but not to this extent. The state Legislature’s usual allotment is $50,000.
“This is the first major funding we have had for this in about 15 years,” said Wayne Gjerde, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s recycling market-development coordinator. “This is a good thing and a perfect opportunity to really expand recycling capacity in Minnesota in places we have not before.”
The Recycling Market Development Grants will be from $50,000 to $250,000; applications are due May 29.
Proposals are primarily being sought for new commercial uses of mixed paper, glass and organics. However, other ideas, including for plastics, paint and construction products, will be considered, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
The grants are meant for “projects that will build lasting capacity to support recycling markets in Minnesota,” Gjerde said. “The goal is to help increase both the demand for, and value of, such materials, while also keeping items out of landfills and creating jobs in Minnesota.”
Grant applicants must operate a business in Minnesota or have plans for a facility in the state. Local governments also may be eligible if their project will result in the increased use of recycled materials.
All applicants must match at least 25% of their grant award, officials said.
Minnesota’s past investments in recycling helped businesses and products such as the plastic dock pillars made from old shampoo bottles by Worthington-based Bedford Technology. Others helped Renewal By Andersen make fiber-coated window products and Insolution Manufacturing in Lester Prairie make its Polar Barrier building insulation from old newspapers. It also helped Paynesville-based Avon Plastics, which uses plastic bottles to make lumber decking.
The efforts created 18,000 manufacturing jobs in Minnesota, plus another 43,000 transportation, supply and “indirect” jobs. They also created $3.4 billion in wages and added $15.7 billion to Minnesota’s economy, the MPCA said.
But ongoing success is not guaranteed.
“Recycling markets are fragile. Though Minnesota boasts many businesses that use recycled materials to manufacture new products, it’s still possible for markets to destabilize in the current international climate,” the MPCA said in announcing this year’s grant program.
After years of accepting freight loads of recyclable materials from the U.S., China is refusing to import some U.S. waste such as mixed paper.
That’s one reason that grant proposals suggesting new uses for mixed paper will be given a priority. Proposals involving waste glass will also be given a priority status, Gjerde said, noting that the state wants to find new uses for old glass other than just glass and fiberglass products.
“We continue to want more companies to take [waste] materials and make new products out them, because it’s good for the environment and good for the economy,” Gjerde said.