MnTAP Communication Staff
Crosby, Minnesota, Graphic Packaging International
(GPI) was looking to throw away office supplies
and other materials after its recent name
change from Riverwood International to GPI.
Among the items was a 4,000 pound trade show
booth. “I didn’t want the display
booth going to the landfill, but I didn’t
know what to do with it,” said Nancy
Osvold, GPI environmental coordinator. “The
was my connection.”
The Minnesota Materials Exchange, located
at the University of Minnesota, is a free
service provided by the Minnesota Technical
Assistance Program (MnTAP) which links organizations
that have reusable goods they no longer need
to those who can use them. By offering a business
reuse network, Materials Exchange helps prevent
usable materials from becoming waste. The
program doesn’t store materials at its
site; it links companies looking for materials
and those who have materials available.
After a phone call from GPI reporting the
available trade show booth, Brita Sailer,
Materials Exchange Coordinator in Park Rapids
was quick to contact the Minnesota State Community
and Technical College, Wadena Campus. She
knew Carpentry Instructor Dave Kraemer was
looking for materials to use in his shop.
In just a short time the exchange was underway
and the booth was being transported to the
“The trade show booth was used in many
ways,” Kraemer said. “Some of
the material was used to fix a wall inside
a campus building; other materials were used
during the construction of fish houses built
by students. The Wadena Campus also received
13 wooden crates that stored the display during
transportation. “Many of these crates
were used in our shop. A farmer came and picked
up the rest of the crates to fix up the pig
lot on his farm,” said Kraemer. “I
kept one [crate] around for remembrance of
the event.” He plans to transform this
last remaining crate into a phone booth to
be used at the school.
Dave Kraemer remembers the exchange as a fun
event. Semi-trucks transporting the material
not only attracted a great deal of attention
from students and faculty members, but the
exchange itself helped benefit many people.
The successful exchange between GPI and the
Wadena Campus diverted over 4,000 pounds from
Minnesota’s landfills in 2004. In addition,
GPI saved an estimated $400 in disposable
costs and the Wadena Campus saved an estimated
$25,000 is purchase costs.
Other materials often posted on the program’s
Web site include: plastic drums, cardboard
boxes, packing peanuts and bubble wrap, to
name a few. On occasion, rare and unusual
materials may be reused through the Materials
Exchange. A barn, 30-foot bridge, 32,000 pounds
of jelly and a chicken plucker all have been
exchanged between businesses.
“These items are not exchanged very
often,” says Suzy Mellem, Materials
Exchange coordinator. “However, if companies
have reusable items in good condition, we’ll
help connect them to someone who can use them.”
exchanges happen every day around Minnesota.
In the last five years, the Materials Exchange
program has helped businesses save about $3
million and exchanged over eight million pounds
of reusable materials.
“It’s a win-win situation for
everyone,” says Mellem. “Both
companies save money and valuable resources
are kept out of the landfill.”
The best way to find out what materials are
currently available is to search the Materials
Exchange Web page at <mnexchange.org>.
Online, companies can also sign up for a twice
monthly e-mail that describes the latest available
and wanted listings. For more information
call Suzy Mellem at 612/624-5119 or 800/247-0015.
Minnesota is served by nine programs that
make up the Minnesota Materials Exchange Alliance.
These alliance sites are located throughout
the state and provide local service to designated
areas. Contact Suzy Mellem for assistance
in your area.
The Minnesota Technical Assistance Program
(MnTAP) is an outreach program at the University
of Minnesota that helps Minnesota businesses
develop and implement industry-tailored solutions
that maximize resource efficiency, prevent
pollution and reduce costs and energy use.
Established in 1984, MnTAP is funded by a
grant from the Minnesota Office of Environmental
Assistance to the University of Minnesota
School of Public Health, Division of Environmental