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Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
January 08, 2024 | Tom Ballard

Chattanooga area company is big in the recycling business, both professionally and personally

Dawn and Mark Huber founded iSustain nearly nine years ago after going through a challenging period in their lives.

It was during his nine-year career with DuPont that Mark Huber said “the seed was planted in my head” about the importance of recycling. It not only saved costs for companies, but it also diverted items that would otherwise go into a landfill.

Today, he is Vice President of Business Development at iSustain Inc., a sustainability solutions firm that is committed to delivering client-centric strategies and tools for accelerating growth and enhancing both the financial and environmental impact of its waste byproducts. Huber and his wife, Dawn, founded the company in 2014. (Learn more by reviewing the PDF of the firm’s brochure: iSustain-New-Digital-Brochure-2.4-RW 2-compressed_4.)

Based in Soddy-Daisy just outside of Chattanooga, the firm works with a broad range of organizations – from start-ups and emerging growth companies to major Fortune 500 enterprises. Its clients range from traditional manufacturers to those in retail and distribution. One notable example is Dollywood, the Sevier County theme park.

Mark Huber

“We have helped them revamp and improve their recycling efforts,” Huber says of the Sevier County theme park. As noted in this recent article, iSustain helped Dollywood source a specialized polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle baler to ensure the many collected beverage bottles were baled and ready to sell to companies able to recycle the polypropylene caps and PET bottles. Additionally, through a partnership with The Coca-Cola Company, more than 65 new recycling bins were deployed, which allowed a convenient location for park guests to recycle bottles. A Dollywood host sorts through the bottles, removing all contaminants placed into the containers.

Not only does Huber preach about the importance of recycling, but he also walks the talk, serving since April 2021 as President of the Board of Directors of the Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful organization. It is the first Keep America Beautiful affiliate in the nation to focus solely on a river with a mission to educate and inspire people to take action to create a clean, healthy, beautiful Tennessee River for generations to come. He and his wife also support a microplastics research program at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.

Huber graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) in 1997 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and immediately joined DuPont. Now, he’s also serving as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence for UTK’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation where he shares the highs and a specific low during his more than a quarter of a century professional career that includes both the corporate and entrepreneurial worlds.

It was during Huber’s DuPont days where he was working in the Food Ingredient Division that he was exposed to recycling. He needed to secure his Six Sigma certification, and that led to implementing a recycling program for the division. Later, he was hired to run a Home Depot store which Huber says was a “fantastic training ground to be an entrepreneur.”

In 2007, he helped launch Recycle Solutions, a recycling and waste management company incorporating creative solutions, full operational support, and proactive management. It grew from five employees to more than 120 at three recycling facilities in Georgia, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

“I thought I was on top of the world,” Huber said. That was shortly before his business partner’s wife passed away, the business partnership deteriorated, the partner subsequently fired Huber and his wife, and Recycle Solutions filed for bankruptcy eight months later.

“I learned about failure the hard way,” he said. “My whole life was turned upside down in a few months. I needed a job but could not find one. A former colleague said you need to start your own company.”

That was nearly nine years ago, and Huber says he put 500,000 miles on two cars between 2014 and 2022. Today, however, that persistence has paid off with clients across North America handling over 190,000 million pounds per year of recyclables.

“At the end of the day, we are trying to make an impact,” he says, adding, “It’s interesting how things evolve.”

That was very evident when iSustain established a $400,000 endowment to support graduate students in UTK’s Haslam College of Business who have a passion for protecting and improving the health of the natural environment, both in business and in their personal lives. iSustain committed $200,000 to the university, which will receive a one-to-one match from the Haslam College’s matching gift program for a total of $400,000.

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