* The following info can help anyone, but we’ve tailored it to the Omaha area, specifically for the smart folks who are using our sustainability services at their place of work, school, or faith. Some variations may apply, but here’s the general gists …

What’s on this page …

Quick Start Guide / Recycle Right / Energy Bag / Compost / Glass / Landfill / Refuse, Reduce, Reuse

Quick Start Guide

1. Get containers for each stream, up to 6 total.


Best Practice: Use the correct color coding agreed upon by entities like Recycle Across America & US Zero Waste Business Council.

  • Black = Landfill

  • Blue = Recycling

  • Green = Composting

FYI: Orange containers aren’t easy to find, so focus on blue for anything recycling related.

Where To Purchase: Local/family owned Larsen Supply Co. via Jeff Hall, 712.322.0283, jeff@larsensupplyco.com.

Best Practice: Where one bin is, all bins are, because solo bins see high contamination.


2. Place signs on every container.

Why: Since most people were never taught how to recycle, every container requires a sign.

  • FREE Hillside Posters: Made specifically for what First Star & our compost yard accepts. Download, print & laminate at 11x17 inches. If you need something custom, contact your Hillside rep.

  • Recycle Across America: This is the closet thing to a national standard. Various sized stickers you can order online. There’s many options, so check with your rep before ordering.

  • Recycling Partnerships DIY Template: Templates you can customize on your own.


3. Figure out which liners/bags to use for each stream.

Why: While you can store materials in any liner you want in-house, outdoor containers that are emptied by the waste hauler have restrictions.

If you don’t follow these instructions, recycled/composted material may go to the landfill.

  • Cardboard/Paper/Fiber Recycling: None needed. Plastic bags prohibited.

  • Mixed/Container Recycling: None needed. Plastic bags prohibited, except orange Hefty Energy Bag.

  • Glass: None needed. Plastic bags prohibited.

  • Landfill: Plastic bags preferred and in some cases required.

  • Energy Bag: All Energy Bag items must be in an Energy Bag in order to be recycled. 8-gallon size sold at Omaha grocery stores or Menard’s website. Commercial 30 & 55 gallon only available from First Star: Jeff Heck, jheck@firstarfiber.com, (402) 536-0648.

  • Compost: None needed. Plastic bags prohibited. If using compostable bags, we recommend Naturbag. For ongoing purchases, Larsen Supply Co. may be cheaper than Amazon. Note: biodegradable bags are not the same as compostable.


4. In outdoor dumpster area, place separated materials into correct place.

Why: When material is placed in the wrong container, or placed outside the container, they may not get recycled/composted.

Best Practice: If using a cleaning company, train them & verify they’re following this process.

  • Cardboard/Paper/Fiber Recycling: Fold/stack cardboard into tote or dumpster to maximize space and save money.

  • Mixed/Container Recycling: Place loose items into the tote or dumpster.

  • Glass: Place loose items into the tote.

  • Landfill: Place plastic bags into tote or dumpster.

  • Energy Bag: Tied-up Energy Bag’s go into mixed/container recycling.

  • Compost: Place compostable bags or loose items into tote. If you’re having bug or smell issues, tie-off the inner compostable bag we provide. Watch this video for how.

Recycle Right

Why: Lots of stuff winds up in the landfill when we recycle the wrong things, especially food & liquids.

FYI: Apart from residential or small organizations, a functioning recycling program in the Omaha area that uses dumpsters requires Dual-Stream Recycling. Info on that here.

Empty, Clean & Dry

Here’s the litmus test: food residue & liquid is fine, as long as there’s not enough to bite or drink from. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but cleaner materials = more recyclability.

When in doubt, throw it out

The recycling stream is sensitive, so if you don’t know, it’s better to landfill than “wish cycle.”

Best Practice: Keep it simple. Focus on the major categories at first, then dive into the rabbit hole when ready. Check the slides below to see easy recycle items.

Best Practice: Reference WasteLine.org for a full list recyclable items at First Star and Keep Omaha Beautiful’s guide for hard to recycle items.

Soft Plastic Recycling


Why: Many plastics are not easily recyclable. That’s where Energy Bag comes in (see video below).

Soft & Flimsy

If it’s soft and flimsy, it isn’t traditionally recyclable, but is Energy Bag-able.


All styrofoam, such as take-out containers, must be Energy Bag’ed.

Plastic Utensils

While they are hard & rigid — plastic forks, knives, and spoons must be Energy Bag’ed.


Why: Composting is nature’s version of recycling. Watch this if you don’t know.

If Nature Made it, it’s compostable

While composting at home should mainly be veggie/fruits & yard waste — when you send stuff to a commercial composting facility, we can break down anything that nature made.

Compost These Items_2400x1200.jpg

No plastic, glass, metal

FYI: When paper plates & coffee cups (think Starbucks) have a shiny gleam, that’s a layer of plastic, meaning it’s a landfill item.

verify Compostable Products

Shopping for compostable plates, utensils, cups or bags is confusing, as many products use confusing language, i.e. “biodegradable” is not the same as compostable, and something may be compostable but not “certified compostable.” Here’s an article on it.

Best Practice: Larsen Supply Co. knows our program, so they can help. Otherwise look for the above logos and please verify with us before ordering.

FYI: If you’re using compostable products but are not composting the waste with us, then the material is either contaminating recycling streams or putting off methane in the landfill. Better to use easily recyclable materials as an alternative.

Glass Recycling

Glass Recycling POSTER print.jpg

Bottles & Jars Only

Please, no lightbulbs, mirrors, window panes, etc.

No liquid or caps

Pour liquid out. It’ll keep your container clean!

Shards & Labels Ok

True Landfill Items

Some stuff just belongs in a landfill. Here are common items we see mistakenly in recycling/composting. While some areas may be able to do something with this stuff, our area can’t.

Why: Most coffee cups, like Starbucks & Scooters, have a plastic lining on the inside. Same for some “paper” plates (look for the shiny reflection). Combined materials like this are hard to recycle, and composting can’t break down plastic. As for gum, they put plastic in most of that stuff to make it last.


Refuse, Reduce, Reuse


Recycling & composting doesn’t absolve us of the waste we produce. That’s because the amount of waste it takes to make our materials outweighs the benefits of merely recycling/composting it. While recycling & composting programs must be standard practice everywhere, the future of solid waste sustainability is in not creating waste in the first place.

That’s where the 5 R’s come in. This is also where cost savings can take place for a business.

Other Implementation Ideas

Here’s what we see our best partners doing …

  • Delegate sustainability position or green team to monitor ongoing success

  • Incorporate this info into new hire training

  • Have employees sign a Sustainability Pledge - click for template

  • Maintain accountability through regularly scheduled audits

  • Celebrate it as part of your culture

Here’s a recap video of everything above and more …