Success Stories 

Firstar Fiber, Inc.
Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Partnership

“Our experience working with the Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the College of Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was great.  We have participated in internship programs with others in the past and, by far, the mentoring provided to the intern – and for that matter ourselves – was exceptional.  The support and process forthe P3 program followed undoubtedly enhanced the fine work produced by the intern in such a relatively short amount of time.  His findings and the connections he made with the targeted communities have proven to be a solid foundation for ongoing improvements for them and our company.”

Dale Gubbels, President/CEO

Improving Recycling Rates in Nebraska Communities 

Founded in 1997, Firstar Fiber, Inc. (NAICS code 488991) processes recyclables for businesses and communities throughout the Midwest and markets close to 100,000 tons annually to end users in the state and throughout the country and internationally.

 

The company’s mission is to enhance Nebraska’s recycling infrastructure and assist the state in attaining higher levels of sustainable recycling practices.  Within the Omaha metro area, the company serves both residential customers (e.g. curbside pickup) and commercial businesses with recycling services.  More recently, Firstar Fiber has begun to work with many surrounding, smaller communities and businesses—including recycling centers—in expanding their recycling programs by educating on proper recycling and assisting with grant writing to offset equipment and facility improvements. 

 

Today, Firstar Fiber, Inc. employs approximately 100 persons at its Omaha and Lincoln recycling operations.

Situation

The scope of this project involved evaluating the current recycling programs of four rural communities near Omaha, NE and providing suggestions for improvements.  At the start of the project, the rates of recycling in the target communities was approximately 30%.  The desire is to increase the rate of recycling to 50%, reaping cost savings and increased revenue from the diversion of solid waste to landfills.

Solution

In partnership with Nebraska MEP and the College of Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, an engineering student was placed with Firstar Fiber, Inc. over the course of a summer as part of the P3 – Partners in Pollution Prevention – internship program.  The student conducted on-site visits to recycling centers in the four targeted rural communities near Omaha, visiting with personnel and assessing current operations.  Upon completion of the analysis of the recycling streams’ process flow at each recycling center, recommendations were made for improvements in process flow and equipment purchases, if deemed necessary.

Results

Based on the results of the assessments and current implementation plans, Firstar Fiber, Inc. will realize the following annual impacts:

 

  • $74,000 in cost savings by improving the capture rate for recycling and diverting solid waste from the landfill.
  • Receipt of a Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) grant for $150,000 to be applied towards the firm’s $2,500,000 investment in new automated sorting equipment to support the company’s commitment to help smaller communities divert more plastics from landfills.
  • A separate DEQ grant of $27,000 to expand on the intern’s initial research so as to assist two communities to implement improvements to their recycling programs.  This effort will be documented in a video and online training manual to serve as a model for other communities.