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Todd Mathes of Denali Water Solutions on Sustainability & Acquisitions

3 min read

Todd Mathes, 56, was named CEO of Denali Water Solutions in February. He joined the organic waste recycling company in 2021 as president and COO. He spent eight years as senior vice president of Darling Ingredients of Irving, Texas, and 10 years as COO at Terra Renewal Services Inc. in Dardanelle.

Mathes graduated from the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Why are waste management and recycling so important to keeping the planet sustainable?

The number of landfills in the U.S. — and their capacity to accept materials — is declining every year. As a society, we realize that reliance on landfills is unsustainable. Fortunately, we have more options than ever before to convert materials formerly considered “waste” into new, valuable products. Organic items like food waste are especially well suited to recycling because they can be converted into feed, fuel and fertilizers, which is what we specialize in at Denali. So recycling and avoiding waste are about both avoiding the downsides of landfilling and harnessing the value of discarded materials.

What are your short- and long-term goals for Denali?

We’ve developed a network of solutions to recycle organic materials at scale. In 2022, we recycled more than 10 billion pounds of organics, collected food waste from more than 10,000 grocery stores, and expanded to become a major producer of animal feed in the Southwest U.S. We are looking to expand this network, grow our customer base and use technologies like depackaging machines, which separate packaging from organic contents, to harness the value of additional waste streams.

Denali has purchased several companies in the past few years. What’s the secret to integrating so many new entities?

We are proud to have strengthened Denali’s purpose and values through 13 acquisitions over the past three years. We have an incredible team of experts, and that’s crucial to offering our customers a spectrum of solutions. We’re all focused on a mission, to replenish the Earth by repurposing waste, and we’ve been active in deploying new systems internally so that we can better work together to serve our customers.

What are your fastest-growing markets?

One expanding market is liquid product recycling. Liquid packaged products — like soft drinks, juices, energy drinks and alcoholic beverages — can become unsuitable for sale for a number of reasons. There may have been an error in manufacturing or a problem with distribution. These products need to be destroyed to protect consumers, but the packaging may have value as a recycled material. We’ve expanded our liquid product recycling to carry out certified product destruction, recycle the packaging, and treat the liquid contents so that the water can be reused, as well.

How did you get involved in this industry?

My background is in running large sales and operations organizations, extending back to when I was the plant manager at the largest poultry plant in the U.S. I held various executive roles at Terra Renewal, an organic waste recycling company similar to Denali, and prior to joining Denali I was a senior executive at Darling, a leading global renderer. I’ve been involved in agriculture-related businesses and, to varying extents, organic waste recycling for most of my career.

What is your leadership style?

We work hard, hold each other accountable and value collaboration. My goal is to set an example and to support our team every day.

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