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In December, machinery hummed and a dozen employees sorted through plastic bags and films bound for a new life as Myplas celebrated the grand opening of its $30 million recycling center in Rogers. CEOs of major Minnesota companies attended the ribbon cutting, celebrating the 24/7 production schedule planned for early this year and the intent to quickly grow to 70 employees.

Yet just two months later on Tuesday afternoon, the parking lot was empty, the lights were off, and the whir of the droning machines had quieted. The employee directory at a virtual check-in station listed just four people, and the company's chief executive was not one of them.

The recycling center is not the booming business it set out to be.

"Myplas is committed to the vision of a circular economy for flexible films in the Upper Midwest," Peter Shippen, chair of the Myplas USA board of directors, said. "To execute this vision, we are currently exploring management and operational changes."

Shippen, CEO of Toronto- and London-based Britannia Life Sciences, said the company continues to have strong support from corporate partners, and it remains "in contact with furloughed employees and suppliers with respect to plans to recommence operations."

Several prominent Minnesota companies invested more than $9 million in the project, including General Mills and Schwan's, which have employees on the board of directors. Neither returned a request for comment. The state also chipped in $1.4 million.

Other companies made pledges to support the "circular economy" of recycled plastic that received considerable media coverage. The Rogers facility was the first in the U.S. for South Africa-based Myplas.

MBOLD, a business coalition that led the effort and publicity campaign to bring the recycling company to town, did not provide a comment when reached.

The ability to build a plastic film recycling plant in Minnesota was predicated on increased demand for recycled plastic. That demand was supposedly going to come from food companies, window makers, construction firms, hospitals and others that consume massive quantities of single-use plastic film that is hard to recycle at traditional facilities.

"Recycling doesn't work on its own. Collaboration is key across the supply chain," Myplas' CEO at the time, Andrew Pieterse, said in December. He was not reachable for comment this week.

MBOLD members Cargill, General Mills, Schwan's Company, Land O' Lakes and the University of Minnesota said in 2022 they would "evaluate potential product applications" but did not promise more.

More than a dozen other Minnesota companies and nonprofits later joined as "participants" that would "evaluate strategies for increasing use of recycled resin in new film products," according to an MBOLD news release from March 2023. Allina Health, HealthPartners, Hormel Foods, Post Consumer Brands, Andersen Corp., Marvin, Kraus-Anderson, McGough, Mortenson and other organizations all attached their names to the purportedly eco-friendly project.

Target also invested in Myplas. The retailer was sending plastic bags from store drop-off bins to the facility in Rogers late last year.

Pieterse said in December that Myplas had also partnered with Cargill to recycle used salt bags into new salt bags.

JoAnne Berkenkamp, the director of MBOLD, said at the time that was not accurate.

Pieterse later made an offhand comment when talking about getting the recycled plastic pellets through trial batches and into full production.

"Now we just need to sell," he said, and trailed off: "Sell, sell, sell, sell, sell."