Not only is the Mall of America the world's largest retail and entertainment mall, but shoppers there have the environment in the bag, too. The Minneapolis mall, its more than 420 stores and an on-site Knott's Camp Snoopy amusement park dispense shopping bags made of at least 50 percent recycled plastic.
The bags are produced using locally recycled plastic from mall tenants' shipments.
According to Denise Belizar, a mall spokeswoman, the ``Bags Again'' project is an effort to collect the low density polyethylene shrink wrap and poly bags, plus other plastics used in shipping clothes and goods to the mall's stores, for reprocessing into film suitable for shopping bags.
The program, begun in 1994, has succeeded in recycling about 24,000 pounds of plastic per year from the mall's 16.8 million-pound-per-year waste stream into shopping bags branded with the mall's name and logo.
Strout Plastics Inc., a Bloomington, Minn., film extruder, collects the waste, cleans, grinds and extrudes it, and then makes the bags.
Lori Meyer, waste and recycling coordinator for the mammoth mall, said the idea of a closed-loop system appealed to mall tenants, and continues to grow.
At the beginning we didn't have a feel for the total volume involved, and what the densities were,'' she said. ``We wanted to be sure we were equipped to handle whatever developed. We also had to design and allocate collection space for the used plastic film.''
Virtually every tenant of the mall, including United Parcel Service Inc., which delivers many of the goods to the stores, is included in the recycling program.
The plastic bag program is only one of a larger group of recycling activities at the mall. The mall tenants and customers recycle about 50 percent of the mall's waste stream, including corrugated cardboard, waste grease, glass, aluminum and packing peanuts.
The mall's food-service tenants also participate in a food waste program that daily feeds about 2,000 hogs at nearby farms.