The CEO of Nebraska’s largest recyclables processing company, Firstar Fiber, had his new patio built with “lumber” derived from hard-to-recycle plastic waste like toothpaste tubes, candy wrappers and plastic foam containers. Now his Omaha-based company has partnered with a global nonprofit to manufacture and sell the lumber on a mass scale, offering an innovative, potentially profitable method to reduce litter and keep plastics out of waterways, landfills and oceans across the world.
Firstar Fiber has partnered with the Alliance to End Plastic Waste to add that manufacturing capability to its large processing facility. The collaboration propels Omaha onto the global recycling stage: The nonprofit’s three-year agreement with Firstar is the first partnership the alliance has announced with a company in North America.
The lumber will be made on-site from many items Omahans typically throw in the trash, like plastic straws, juice boxes, potato chip bags and plastic wrap. Some Omahans are already recycling those items by using Hefty orange energy bags, which can be purchased at local stores. Omaha residents have been able to toss the orange bags in along with their regular curbside recycling since 2016, when the city became the nation’s first to introduce the program on a permanent basis. Firstar sends those recyclables to a cement plant for use as fuel.