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Showcasing Small Businesses on Earth Day: SBA Help Turns Trash to Profits and Creates Green Jobs for Nebraska Small Business

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Showcasing Small Businesses on Earth Day: SBA Help Turns Trash to Profits and Creates Green Jobs for Nebraska Small Business

Published: April 19, 2012 Updated: April 20, 2012

We all know we need to be good stewards of the earth, but did you know that with the help of SBA, some communities are celebrating Earth Day every day due to the efforts of small business?  And, they are getting paid to do it!

In the Cornhusker state of Nebraska, Midlands Recycling is contributing to a cleaner Omaha and Lincoln, and their neighbors can breathe easier, drink cleaner water and enjoy savings on their energy bills because of it.  In 2011 alone, the company sorted and bailed 14,400 tons of paper material – recycling efforts that saved more than 100,000 trees and enough water to supply almost 700 families for a year.  These efforts also saved more than 47,000 cubic yards of landfill, helping Omaha extend the capacity of its current landfill beyond its 25-year lifespan.

Midlands RecyclingMidlands Recycling

Palmer and Sons, a family-owned firm in the Omaha refuse business for nearly a quarter-century, bought Midlands Recycling after leasing the operation for more than a year.  It used the proceeds from an SBA 504 loan approved in September 2010 with the help of the Nebraska Economic Development Corp.  The company had taken over the 45,000-square foot facility in May 2009 in the teeth of the recession.  It has since doubled its revenues, and grown from seven to 19 employees, who sort, bail and truck tons of trash to an area processing plant.

The company provided its small business customers with 200 recycling bins, which collect more than 30 tons of cardboard per week. Much of it becomes product packaging.          

“If you’ve bought a case of Corona or Dos Equis beer, the cardboard came from here in Lincoln,” Executive Vice President Micah Palmer said with a smile. 

The glass bottles the company collects, says Palmer, are turned into countertops and the plastic becomes playground slides and castles for kids.  The company also collects grass clippings, leaves and other yard waste, which it turns over to an area organic farmer for use as a natural fertilizer.  Recycling this yard waste alone has saved 21 percent of landfill space.

Midlands Recycling also makes a big effort to encourage recycling by school kids.  The company takes a huge semi-trailer stuffed with hands-on exhibits, video monitors and displays to schools to teach kids the importance of recycling and the impact their actions have on the environment. They also work with Lincoln public schools to collect donated aluminum cans to purchase text books, and team with area recyclers on an effort to raise money for the schools’ general fund.

In partnership with the Lincoln Journal Star recycling effort, Midlands provides the first-ever curbside program operated by a newspaper, which has improved used newspaper collections by 25 percent. With help from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, the company replaced smaller 18-gallon containers for homeowners with bigger 65- and 95-gallon carts. The carts are dumped curbside into a truck and the paper is bailed at Midlands and hauled to a processing plant in Des Moines, Iowa, where the company is paid for their efforts. 

“It’s not just that we feel we're saving the Earth here, what we do is beneficial, obviously,” Palmer said.  “But there's a market for recycling.  It's a profitable business for us, too.”


Fact Sheet - March 2012: Small Businesses, Clean Energy, Green Jobs

About the Author:

Patricia Brown Dixon
Patricia Brown-Dixon is SBA's Regional Administrator for Region 7, including Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas.

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