What's Recyclable?

Click Here  for a list
recyclable items
and recycling tips

Castelar Elementary: Repurposed trash
can used for recycling with yellow
lid and GSI signage.

Tray stacking is a great way to reduce waste in your cafeteria. Below is an example of a tray stacking station at Benson West Elementary School.

In 2008, OPS initiated a single-stream recycling program, expanding from its earlier program of recycling paper only. The single-stream program allows schools to recycle paper, cardboard, plastic (#1–5, 7), and metals in one container. There is no need to sort them out. Below are resources related to classroom/office recycling and cafeteria waste reduction. The district has recently placed significant emphasis on reducing waste in the cafeteria by implementing tray stacking, composting at some schools, and monitoring dumpster fullness.

The following resources provide the key information schools need to successfully start and/or maintain a recycling program:

  1. OPS Green Team Toolkit   The OPS Green Team Toolkit focuses on environmental behaviors and zero/low-cost activities that green teams can implement with relative ease and that can significantly lessen the negative environmental impact of a school community; it does not address high-cost facility renovations or specific environmental curriculum. In other words, the OPS Green Team Toolkit discusses small scale events and daily actions that students and staff can partake in to conserve resources and energy while they are at school.
  2. Recycling Tips Flyer This flyer summarizes what can be recycled as well as the key contacts throughout the district who can help answer your questions. It also has a few tips for successful recycling. 
  3. Recycling Sign (Classroom/Hallway/Office). This sign can be taped to any container used to collect recyclables. It signifies and alerts individuals that the container is for recyclables, as well as reminds them about the items that can be recycled.
  4. What Can be Recycled? This document is the official list from OPS on what can and cannot be recycled in OPS' program. Recently, gable-top and aseptic containers (such as 1/2-gallon milk and orange juice cartons) are also able to be recycled.
  5. Guide for Increasing Recycling or Waste Dumpster Pulls  This document details the OPS protocol for changing dumpster pulls.

Electronic Waste: Electronic waste includes things like computers, printers, copiers, and other equipment that has any kind of circuit board in it (like a switchboard telephone). This type of equipment often contains heavy metals in the circuitry that should not be sent to the landfill. Instead, you should take the equipment out of inventory and submit a request to district operations to pick it up. Following this procedure will both ensure that the equipment is recycled properly and that the district inventory is kept up-to-date.

Waste at Home


OPS works to reduce waste through recycling, printing reduction, disposable tray stacking in the cafeteria, and even composting at select schools. But lately, we’ve all been spending a lot more time at home. How can OPS students and families reduce waste at home over the winter break and during distance learning?



  • Avoid excessive packaging - buy groceries in bulk instead of single serving packs, or choose items that have minimal plastic packaging.
  • Use reusable plates, silverware, etc., instead of disposable dishes and utensils.
  • Use refillable beverage containers (like tumblers or reusable water bottles) instead of individual bottled water or other disposable beverages. 
  • Use cloth napkins instead of paper ones.
  • Use fewer bags to carry your groceries when possible, or use reusable bags when possible.


  • Reuse boxes from online orders to wrap gifts or store items in your household.
  • Wrap gifts using reused paper bags or newspapers instead of new wrapping paper, and reuse gift bags and tissue paper.
  • Donate items like clothes, toys, appliances, or electronics that you no longer need to thrift stores. Bonus: purchase your own clothes or toys secondhand! 
  • Reuse paper from old school assignments for writing grocery lists, notes, or bookmarks.
  • Reuse ordinary household items like popsicle sticks, plastic bag wire twists, foam trays, bottle tops, plastic bottles, and more for crafting projects.

Recycle (or Compost!)

  • Find out what materials are accepted for recycling at your home and set up a recycling bin to dispose of items like cans, plastic bottles, paper, and cardboard. This will vary based on where you live; check out the City of Omaha's recycling guide, if you live within city limits.
  • Try composting at home to recycle food and yard waste. Your student might be composting at school already, but composting is a great subject to learn about over the break. Try building a compost bin in your backyard! 
  • Instead of throwing electronics or other items that cannot be repaired in the trash, find an organization that will take these items and reprocess them safely. 
  • Check out Keep Omaha Beautiful’s guide to recycling and reuse to find out what you can do with items you’re ready to dispose of.

City of Omaha Changes

Since August, the City of Omaha has been delivering two 96-gallon carts (one for waste, one for recycling) to single-family households. These carts, which went into use on 11/30, are part of the City’s new waste contract with hauler FCC Environmental Services. The new bins will make it possible for the waste trucks to automatically pick up and dump waste into the vehicle. One of the carts, with a black lid, must be used for trash and yard waste. It will be collected weekly. The other cart, with a green lid, is used for recycling, which will be collected every other week. Collection days and location of bins for pickup will not change. Below are some tips for families who will be making this transition:


  • Don’t place the carts immediately next to each other or adjacent to a parked car or mailbox. Adequate space makes it easier for the automatic system. 
  • Close the lids fully when you set them out for pickup.
  • Dispose of your old bins sustainably! Re-purpose them into flower containers or storage bins or use them to store glass products, which can be recycled at the city’s recycling drop-off sites. City Sprouts, a community garden organization, is also accepting donations of the green bins.
  •  Additionally, you can bring your old green recycling bins to FCC’s facility at 5902 N. 16th Street, or simply place them in the new recycling cart.

For more info and FAQs, check out this Omaha-World Herald article about the transition!


Additional resources:

The majority of OPS waste comes from the cafeteria, due to food waste, disposable trays and cutlery, milk cartons, packaging, and other items. Several schools have begun composting in the cafeteria, which is one of the best ways to reduce the amount of material sent to the landfill. This year, composting may not be possible, so below are some other ways you can reduce or recycle waste in the cafeteria. 

  1. You can consult the Cafeteria Recycling Tips handout.
  2. OPS Recycling and Grant Options: A list of possible options for cafeteria recycling containers and grants to help fund the purchase of these containers. 
  3. Suggestions for Producing a Cafeteria Recycling Video: This document notes some suggestions for creating a cafeteria recycling video if your school is interested in developing one to help promote the program and educate students/staff.
  4. Grab 'n' Go Recycling!  This document outlines some best practices for Grab 'n' Go recycling and offers a reminder of what is (and is not) recyclable
  5. Tray Stacking Guide.  This guide shows you how to set up tray stacking in your cafeteria.  See Videos tab for Miller Park's demonstration.
  6. Dumpster Fullness Assessment  Use this data sheet to monitor your school's dumpster.  By noting how full it is before picked up, you can identify opportunities to reduce waste service frequency.






High School Cafeteria Recycling Video

June 2, 2020
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Middle School Cafeteria Recycling Video

June 2, 2020
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Elementary School Cafeteria Recycling Video

June 2, 2020
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Miller Park Waste Reduction Video

June 2, 2020
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