Former Phoenix finds his niche and his passion in recycling
Brent DuBois ’01 (Business Administration), president and owner of Logistics Recycling, Inc., is a man on a mission, with a philosophical twist on a venerable sustainability mantra: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Rethink.
Yes, rethink. Think differently about how and why we produce what we produce, package what we package, and buy what we buy.
But we’re already getting ahead of the story. Let’s back up a bit.
When DuBois graduated from high school in Green Bay, Wis., he knew he wanted to go to college and study business. He also knew he wanted to avoid taking on any debt. That made UW-Green Bay the logical place.
“I had the commuter experience, not the dorm experience, which was a trade-off that worked out well for me,” he said. “I had this great school in my own backyard, was able to attend classes full time and work almost full time, so I could pay for books and tuition as I went along. I graduated debt-free with a top-notch education and my internship got me my first job in the business world.”
In many ways, lessons from that first job have brought DuBois full circle and ignited the passion he has for the work he does today.
“My first job grew from an internship that professor Don McCarthy referred me to. It was in sales for a Green Bay company that owned a number of television stations in the United States,” DuBois recalled. “I advanced to working for the corporate director of sales, which required me to travel a lot to train sales teams in other parts of the country. I really enjoyed helping the company grow and expand its market.”
“In 2006, the owners decided they wanted to sell off their stations, and I was involved in breaking up the company,” he said. “That helped me realize I’m really a builder. I enjoy the challenge of taking the risk to help businesses grow.”
At that point, DuBois turned to another skill he developed during his time at UW-Green Bay. While going to school, he had served as a volunteer firefighter in Bellevue. In that role, he gained knowledge and expertise dealing with hazardous materials and became an on-call field technician for the waste-hauling company that eventually became Veolia Environmental Services.
“I joined Veolia ES Special Services as sales manager just as they were dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Katrina,” DuBois recalled. “I learned about the value we could deliver as a ‘solutions provider’ for a company. Customers called us for help, and we figured out how to make it work.
“Over the next eight years, we developed their maritime division and grew it from revenues of a million-dollar revenue stream to a multi-million-dollar stream,” said DuBois. “I was traveling again, but this time I was going to places like Trinidad, Brazil, Europe and China.
“When Veolia decided to get out of the maritime business in 2014 and I helped them divest of it, I realized again how much I enjoy the challenge of growing a company,” said DuBois. “I didn’t know what I would do next, but I knew that I wanted to travel less so I could be home with my family.”
It was a colleague from France who opened the door for him this time. The French company had developed a technology that pulled recyclable metals from incinerator ash that was dumped in landfills. The recycled metals were returned to production as raw material for new metal products. They wanted DuBois to lead their new subsidiary as CEO of LAB USA, which built waste-to-energy plants in Minnesota, Washington state and Maine.
“This opened my eyes to the kinds of things we toss into landfills,” said DuBois. “There are so many things that are nowhere near their end of life, but they wind up in the dump. It felt good to be pulling useful metals from the landfills and building a new company again.”
In 2019, DuBois learned of an opportunity to acquire a family-owned recycling company in Green Bay and put to work his business and sustainability philosophies: Be the solutions provider for your customers and work upstream to avoid unnecessary landfilling.
“My business partners and I were able to acquire Lamp Recyclers, Inc., which had been in business since 1993,” said DuBois. “The company’s primary business was recycling fluorescent light bulbs, but I knew there was an opportunity to expand it to intercept and recycle some of the waste I had seen in landfills. I had also seen small companies struggling to find affordable ways to manage their own waste streams because they didn’t generate enough volume for the large waste companies, but didn’t have the internal resources to manage their smaller quantities. That has become our niche.”
Since acquiring the business, DuBois has nearly doubled the company’s annual revenues and its workforce, expanded the original facility to accommodate new recycling streams, and established two new locations in Wisconsin. The Green Bay headquarters site still recycles fluorescent bulbs and ballasts and breaks down other electronic equipment for reuse and recycling. A second location in Green Bay he calls a ‘mini materials recovery facility’ that handles cardboard, plastics and paper waste, and third one in Somerset collects various hazardous and medical waste materials and transports them to other facilities that reprocess, recycle, or dispose of them. That facility serves western Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
“In a nutshell,” DuBois explained, “we provide collection and disposal services for companies that produce universal waste, hazardous waste and medical waste.” Universal waste includes things that everyone produces, like televisions, light bulbs, and batteries. Hazardous waste includes corrosive and flammable liquids. And medical waste includes waste generated at health care facilities, such as hospitals, physicians’ offices, dental practices, blood banks, and veterinary hospitals/clinics, as well as medical research facilities and laboratories.
In addition to expanding the business, DuBois also changed the company’s name slightly to reflect its expanded focus.
“We kept Lamp Recyclers, Inc. because it was well known and that work stream continued to be a mainstay of our business,” DuBois explained. “We added Logistics Recycling, Inc. to the name because it reflected the solutions-oriented nature of our company and employees. Now we’re just known as LRI. We specialize in working through the details for customers, so they only have to make one call for a complete solution instead of trying to develop a solution and manage all the pieces themselves. Our business has grown mostly by word of mouth, as one customer tells another. There’s a real need out there.”
Even as DuBois and the LRI team are growing their company, they are applying their expertise to the growth of two other programs in Green Bay.
LRI has partnered with ASPIRO vocational rehabilitation services to lease some of ASPIRO’s unused warehouse space, where ASPIRO clients receive and process reusable cardboard boxes for the Green Bay offices of Nature’s Way. This provides jobs for ASPIRO’s clients and enables LRI to sell the boxes and reduce the cost of waste-handling for Nature’s Way. This puts almost 95 percent of the boxes into a closed-loop system and keeps them out of the landfill.
ASPIRO and LRI are developing a similar program with Sargento foods for reusable box management.
“As more companies see the benefit to being intentional about their waste planning, we can reduce the amount of material going into landfills,” DuBois said. “It’s a cost-effective and environmentally sound way of doing business; less waste and a better bottom line.”
LRI is also exploring opportunities to work with the Environmental Management and Business Institute (EMBI) at UW-Green Bay. DuBois is excited to bring his experience and perspective to the EMBI.
“I think every high school senior and college freshman should take a tour of a landfill,” said DuBois. “It would open their eyes to the need to rethink how we can reduce the amount of stuff we throw away. And it’s not just packaging. I’d like manufacturers to think longer term about the lifecycles of their products and what happens to them at the end of their useful lives.
“If we can get today’s business students to think this way,” DuBois said, “we can influence the future of manufacturing and recycling.”
It seems fitting that a UW-Green Bay student who began his business career with an internship suggested by his business professor and used his entrepreneurial energy to develop a thriving recycling service has brought his passion and philosophy full circle: to grow the campus and community where it started.
Story by freelancer Jim Streed
Photo by Dan Moore, Marketing and University Communication