After meeting each other a few years ago, Jon Steinbeck of Omaha and Dusty VanRenan of Nebraska City joined forces to recycle, reuse and reclaim items in southeast Nebraska and southwest Iowa.
The duo are the co-owners of Green Rivers Recycling LLC., which is located in the former Otoe Food Products Co. building at 1009 7th Corso in Nebraska City. The company was incorporated in August 2015 and operations began at it’s current location in October 2015.
Steinbeck and VanRenan met while VanRenan was the former Fremont County Landfill manager in Sidney, Iowa. VanRenan tried to develop a recycling program at the landfill. Steinbeck worked at Troika Recycling in Omaha. Troika helps set up recycling programs for companies. The landfill’s recycling program was operational for a time, but VanRenan said it was shut down. Since VanRenan had already established core customers wanting recycling services, Steinbeck and VanRenan teamed up to start up Green Rivers.
“We had all of these customers who needed recycling and no one else in the area could help them with it because we are the only recycling company in southeast Nebraska and southwest Iowa,” Steinbeck said.
They both developed a business plan and secured some financing for their business. Steinbeck takes care of the marketing, bookkeeping and the business end while VanRenan is the carpenter and networks with clientele to expand the business.
Green Rivers recycles, reuses or reclaims items. Recycling is very dear to their hearts. While working at the landfill, VanRenan saw all kinds of recyclable materials thrown away, or “planted” as he calls it, on a daily basis. Recycling allows him to make a difference in the world today and in the future.
“It just sickened me every day to see load after load of recyclable material being thrown into the ground … ,” he said. “There’s so much material that’s going back into the ground.”
As far as recycling goes, Steinbeck said cardboard is a good example of how Green Rivers takes an existing product to then be transformed into another useful item. Green Rivers collects cardboard, bales it, stores it in the warehouse until there’s a full truck load and hauls it to paper mills where it will be remade into a new paper product like pizza boxes.
The company also recycles all types of plastic, banding for shipping materials, buckets, pallets, super sacks that can hold about 3,000 pounds of sand and more.
Steinbeck said super sacks are also reused as sacks by Green Rivers customers if needed. Pallets are the company’s No. 1 commodity and Steinbeck said they are reused a lot for furniture and projects.
“We try to reuse those as much as possible and it’s a very reusable item,” he said. “Sometimes we’ll get pallets in or crates that we’ll tear down and we’ll sell that lumber for reuse.”
Green Rivers also has 55-gallons plastic and cardboard barrels for reuse and liquid bulk totes that could be used as hand washing and livestock showering stations for farmers and companies, or firewood storage once the tops are cut off. Small and large cardboard boxes are also available for reuse.
“We try to reuse anything that we can,” Steinbeck said.
Green Rivers employees will travel to an old barn or house that will be undergoing demolition to reclaim materials, including old-growth lumber. VanRenan said old-growth lumber is very valuable and is a treasure for many people wanting to breathe new life into the lumber by reclaiming it into a new use, like building a bar in a home.
“Old-growth lumber is lumber that is so old that the trees that were here when the settlers first came or what they used or milled for building materials. It’s a very dense wood, impervious to termites and it’s highly sought after by a lot of builders throughout the country,” he said. “You’re also preserving these old buildings, which is really important to some of the farmers and owners around here. The building obviously can’t stay, but at least the materials that their forefathers used to erect these structures can still prove to be preserved and not just wasted by going through a landfill and being burned.”
Other items Green Rivers reclaims are pianos, doors, fire doors, floor boards and more. In fact, as customers walk into the warehouse entrance they’ll notice a desk that was built by a Green Rivers employee out of an old piano.
VanRenan said a lot of his customers show up with Pinterest projects, like pallet furniture, and ask him if he has recycled timber or pallets in the warehouse that can be purchased.
“We have a lot of people that come in with ideas and we try to help them bring that (item) to life,” he said.
VanRenan said he encourages people to reuse materials as they are because it will create less of a carbon footprint versus destroying the product to recreate a new one.
“You spend a lot of energy and a lot of carbon footprinting to break that product down and create a new product out of the same material,” he said.
Another way Green Rivers lessens it’s own carbon footprint is by collecting rainwater from its foam-insulated roof to reuse the water to wash pallets.
“There’s a lot of water that’s just run-off that we can collect and utilize for our washing and stuff like that,” VanRenan said. “If we get a good dewy morning, it’s pretty easy to see 40 to 50 gallons.”
Green Rivers also salvages items like air conditioners, water heaters and furnaces from building demolitions.
Most of Green Rivers’ materials come from farmsteads and corporations. The business does welcome do-it-yourselfers and crafters to stop into the warehouse to purchase items for projects, but VanRenan said currently Green Rivers doesn’t deal with personal or residential recycling.
“We want people who are crafty or want to get into the crafts and the upcycling … to come in and shop around and find supplies for doing that, and not have to go out and try to get it out of the dumpsters or go out and try to buy it from other avenues,” VanRenan said. “We want them to be able to come in here and shop for their total project and get lots of ideas by coming in and seeing things in the warehouse … .”
Steinbeck is hoping that someday in the future the business will get to the point where residents will be able to bring in aluminum cans and other materials into the warehouse to be recycled.
Some of the products available at Green Rivers are reclaimed lumber; pallet lumber; rain barrels; heavy-duty steel pallets; all sizes of wood pallets, crates and cardboard boxes; 55-gallon steel barrels; plastic; 55-gallon cardboard barrels with open and closed tops; 330-gallon liquid bulk totes; 5-gallon plastic buckets; and steel storage cages.
Green Rivers is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m to 4 p.m. Weekend of after-hours appointments can be made by contacting Steinbeck at (402) 517-0511 or emailing him at
More information about Green Rivers can be found at it’s Web site at or at its Facebook page at
Steinbeck said since Green Rivers has been open, the company has seen significant growth in customers.
“The future is recycling, as far as I’m concerned, and Dusty feels the same way. We’re in an industry that’s going to grow and we’re a small and agile business - we’re hungry. We really want to help the local companies here in Nebraska City and in the other towns around the area, but then we also want to go beyond. We want to encourage other businesses to start using materials that we’re collecting here. We want to help Nebraska City grow and we think recycling is not only the moral way to do it, but the smart way to do it,” he said. “Tomorrow’s going to be a better day.”
“And cleaner,” VanRenan added.