While many 80-year-olds might choose to spend time enjoying retirement after decades of hard work, Nate (82) and Clarke Gibbs (80), owners of new ISRI member company Atlanta Dedicated, LLC, had different plans. In this edition of Faces of ISRI, Nate Gibbs shares how he and his brother fell in love with recycling, what led them to becoming ISRI members, and their desire to help the American economy.
Tell me about your background and how you ended up working in the recycling industry.
My background is in finance and accounting, but my brother Clarke and I have been recycling for more than 20 years. It was in the 1980’s while in between jobs in Mobile, Ala., that I started picking up aluminum cans from restaurants, and garbage bins. I remember selling them for 1 cent per can during Coors’ cash for cans program. During this same period, my brother Clarke lived in Natchez, Miss., and worked as an OTR truck driver.
My brother Clarke was introduced to recycling while employed as a CDL truck driver. While making deliveries to businesses, he noticed large piles of recyclable materials such as cardboard boxes, metals, and other materials. One day, he asked a manager if he could have the metals outside. To his surprise, he made more from the sale of that one load of metals than he did from his paycheck for a full week of driving.
How do you enjoy working with your brother?
It’s great. We were raised separately so we didn’t grow up together. He was raised by our grandparents in York, Ala. while I grew up with our biological parents in Mobile. Now that we’re older, we’re finding we have a lot in common. It’s a joy working with him. We are also blessed to have some of our children plus a long-time family friend, Terri Dionne Graham, involved with the business now, so we really enjoy the family aspects of the business.
How has business been since the onset of COVID-19, and how have things been since we’ve started to return to a “new normal”?
We were doing really well up until the pandemic hit, but business is beginning to pick back up. However, it’s a whole different ballgame now with inflation being what it is. It’s also difficult to get shipping containers. Everything is so different since the pandemic. Prices are different, which means price structures are different. Availability of trucking carriers and shipping lanes are totally different, so there’s more competition now. But we’re figuring out how to navigate the challenges.
What made you fall in love with recycling?
Without a doubt, when my brother and I discovered that we could not only earn a decent “side income” from selling recyclables, but we could also provide a tangible benefit by helping to create a clean environment, we fell in love with recycling. Recycling became so profitable, that Clarke stopped driving OTR rigs and organized Atlanta Dedicated, LLC based in Natchez until his wife passed away in 2016. After that, he moved to Atlanta to be with his daughter, Thromasa. At that point, we decided to join forces and expand the recycling business to include not only paper and metals, but we also ventured into recycling metals, and other commodities.
How were you introduced to ISRI, and what made you want to become members?
That’s a story [laughs]. We met a potential buyer here in Atlanta who wanted to buy some copper from us. I gave him a call one day and he was interested in doing business with us, but he asked if we were ISRI members. I had no idea at the time what ISRI was and he said he would only do business with us if we were members. So, that was a whole new assignment that required much research into ISRI and all that the association does. We got in contact with ISRI’s membership department, and they told us what we needed to do to become members. The process to become a member took about 6-8 months. Then we ran into Eric [Alexander de Groot, a consultant for Atlanta Dedicated]. He was familiar with ISRI and knew some of ISRI members. We brought Eric on as a consultant, and he attended ISRI2022 on our behalf. By the time he got back, we were all really excited and happy to be members.
What are some of your short-term and long-term goals for Atlanta Dedicated?
Since 2003, Atlanta Dedicated has been committed to keeping the planet “Green.” We turn recyclable items into materials that are used again. In the past, a lot of our business has been in recycling paper, metals, and plastics. Before the pandemic, we were exporting and recycling tons of plastic materials to Indonesia. We’ve also had clients for recyclable items throughout the U.S. Our short-term goal is to continue sourcing recycle materials for both domestic and international buyers.
Our long-term goal is to expand into the international market. We want to help the American economy by expanding job opportunities. We can accomplish that by shipping commodities overseas to our international trading partners. We concluded that we needed the help of an expert that could help us reach our goals. There were two major reasons we brought Eric on: 1) Eric had personal experience in recycling, and (2) Eric spoke several languages. In addition to being a great communicator, with many international contacts around the world, it has been a great to have Eric as part of our team. Furthermore, he has been working on a proposal for us to grow our business, in terms of young people joining our organization so we can ‘Pass it on!’ The Legacy Factor is definitely important, and if there are college students or people who would like to join us, please contact us.
Today, we are thankful for the ISRI member who insisted that we become members of ISRI before he would do business with us. At first, we felt offended because, after all, we had been recycling on a piece-meal basis for about 20 years. However, before we joined ISRI, we had no understanding of the laws, regulations and policies applicable to imports and exports, including domestic and overseas inspections for compliance, and fraud deterrence. After becoming members of ISRI, we feel very optimistic about accomplishing our long-term goals. Potential clients are now eager to talk with us when they discover that we are a creditable member of ISRI, an organization promoting safe, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible recycling through networking, advocacy, and education.
Photos courtesy of Nate Gibbs. Body image 1 caption: Nate Gibbs. Body image 2 caption: Clarke Gibbs.