Recycling In Lincoln: Becoming a National Leader

by Milo Mumgaard


The City of Lincoln aims to be known as one of most sustainable, green cities in the nation. Our clean air and water, green spaces and parks, bike trails and recycling programs, all are the fruits of many generations. This quality is a product of our shared commitment to environmental stewardship and economic vitality, and to an engaged, active, and knowledgeable community. It is also directly linked to our strong local economy. A strong economy is what makes possible our investments in the assets that make Lincoln a special place to call home. 


Throughout its history, the people of Lincoln have strongly supported the local policies and programs which bolster both a healthy economy and our high quality of life. These policies include strengthening neighborhoods, fostering measured growth, investing in public transportation, launching new incentives for energy saving, using renewable energy, and promoting recycling. This healthy interplay of economic, social, and environmental factors produces benefits which are quantifiable and real in our local economy.

Lincoln today thus continues to see strong economic growth and opportunity reinforced by sustainable practices. 

Over the last several years, Mayor Chris Beutler has led the way in this effort through his “Cleaner Greener Lincoln” initiative. The goal has been to engage citizens, businesses, civic organizations, and neighborhood and community leaders in building on Lincoln’s remarkable assets.

One area the community has recently focused on is recycling and composting, often thought of as a leading indicator in a community’s commitment to sustainable practices. Lincoln has long featured a public-private partnership with many haulers, recyclers, and similar enterprises. This system has brought many benefits to the community, including Lincoln being one of the cleanest cities in the nation. But many things have changed since the last time our community crafted a plan for solid waste management over twenty years ago, and it became time to take another look to see what we could do better.

In a remarkable display of community engagement, in 2012-2013 dozens of community leaders were appointed by Mayor Beutler to meet regularly and take public input on how Lincoln could better reduce and divert its waste from the city’s landfill, and create new jobs, economic development, and investment opportunities.

The plan emerging from this community process is keyed to preserving Lincoln’s special private-public partnerships, but to now greatly increase our commitment to treating waste as a resource. This new emphasis in Lincoln should result in lower costs for landfill operations, higher recycling rates (aimed to be well above the national average), and far more opportunities to find value in our solid waste stream, such as new recycled product markets and waste to energy operations.

The future is bright indeed for the economic development opportunities arising from this new plan, while it promises to deliver even more benefits for the community as a whole. Lincoln’s drive to be known as the “green Capital City of the Great Plains” continues, and our city-wide commitment to being a leader in recycling is a major part of it.

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