Lee Cornell

Lee Cornell

Director of Mill Supply, Firstar Fiber

Lee Cornell has more than 38 years in recycling, starting with municipal recycling in Binghamton, New York, and spending the last 25 years with Firstar Fiber in Omaha, Nebraska. Stints along the way include work with Browning Ferris Industries, Laidlaw Waste Systems and Weyerhaeuser.

Cornell developed an environmental ethic working as a wilderness guide in Maine, an outward bound instructor and as a ranger with the National Park Service. After completing graduate studies in water resources and physical geography at Binghamton University, he was called as an expert witness on landfill permitting and waste-to-energy permitting in Broome County, New York. This was the catalyst for his work in recycling.

In 1985, Cornell designed and implemented the first county-administered curbside recycling program in New York state. The program received four National Achievement awards from the National Association of Counties for this breakthrough program.

Over the next several years, he worked on developing facilities and processing capacity in Binghamton, Ithaca and Syracuse, New York; Philadelphia; and Omaha. While working on facility development, there was healthy interaction with mills, processors and manufacturers in recycling commodities and trading.

Cornell’s current work with Firstar Fiber focuses on marketing plastic, paper and metals from Firstar's processing facilities as well as regional brokerage opportunities. Firstar has grown from a 300-ton-per-month operation to more than 10,000 tons per month.

In 2018, working with the city of Omaha towards a goal of minimizing waste and knowing more plastic could be extracted from households, Firstar initiated curbside collection of nontraditional plastics, especially films, as part of the Hefty Renew Program.

Recognizing the need for markets for wide-spec polyolefins and seeing an opportunity for vertical integration, Firstar started a plastic reprocessing facility and plastic lumber manufacturer this spring. Cornell has been enormously involved in this process and has the responsibility for feedstock supply and sale of pellets from the reprocessing operation.


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