Positively the Heartland: Omaha company turns recyclables into plastic lumber

Posted at 7:32 AM, Aug 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-02 08:32:31-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — What if we told you that your tossed-out tube of toothpaste could turn into your neighbor's new patio?

Well, that could be the case here in Omaha. Nebraska's largest recyclables processing plant, Firstar Fiber, is partnering with a global non-profit to turn "hard-to-recycle" plastics into plastic lumber.

“We wanted to turn the plastics that we receive into a locally produced product to provide the value that it otherwise didn’t have,” Firstar Fiber CEO Dale Gubbels said.

The product will be made on-site at their location near 103 and I St.

Thanks to a partnership with The Alliance to End Plastic Waste, Firstar Fiber has officially opened a nearly 5,000-square-foot expansion.

“One, there is local end markets for it. Almost every single house is a candidate for a deck, a patio and privacy fence,” Gubbels said. “That makes it easy for us to get into a business that we don’t have to try and sell to China or other things beyond our capabilities.”

The environmental impact is also seven-fold, according to Gubbels.

“Many types of material that we are after are more prone to be littered,” Gubbels said. “If they are littered, they are going to wash down into a stream at one point and that will eventually get to the ocean even from Nebraska.”

Plastic also lasts for hundreds of years, meaning Firstar Fiber’s plastic lumber is sustainable.

“I’m sure they will last my lifetime and other lifetimes,” Gubbels said. “The advantage too is that we can shred and grind even the decks up if people get tired of them and they can go back into another product again because they are recyclable decks, as well.”

Firstar Fiber has not started producing or selling the product here locally yet.

In the meantime, Gubbels is excited to see more Omahans on board with the opportunities of recycling.

Some Omahans are already helping in the process by using those Hefty orange energy bags, where hard-to-recycle plastics are collected and turned into valuable resources.

You can buy those bags at area grocery and hardware stores.

Visit Firstar Fiber's website here.

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