Growing up in a recycling plant seems like an odd way to spend your childhood, but for Richie Getter it has led to a successful career at a young age.
“I grew up in a recycling plant setting as a young kid in the late ‘80’s, climbing all over baled inventory after hours when my dad, uncle, and grandfather would be walking around discussing grades and aspects of daily production,” says Getter. “I began sorting material during summer months before I could legally be on the payroll, the beginnings of learning Spanish, creating operational relationships and work ethic at the age of 14.”
Throughout high school, Getter continued to work in the plant during the summers, learning material grades, efficiencies in material flow, quality control, along with various operational jobs. After earning a degree in International Relations focused on Latin America in Austin, he began working in the plant full time in 2005.
“I continued to work in operations, loading and unloading inventory, driving trucks, servicing, and getting to know our clients personally,” says Getter. “I also worked with the maintenance department from time to time assisting in re-locating equipment and building out new projects.”
Now Getter serves as the vice president of strategy and commodities for Balcones Resources Inc., which was founded by his parents Kerry and Becky Getter in 1994 in Austin, Texas. He was named a 2020 Waste360 40 Under 40 Award winner.
Waste360 recently sat down with Getter to discuss his career and the future of plastics recycling.
Waste360: Describe your role as Vice President of Strategy at Balcones Resources.
Richie Getter: I wear a few hats today in my role at Balcones. I continue to build upon our plastics portfolio and strategic relationships, I’m involved in real estate and facility development for future expansion opportunities, and I also spend my time working on new projects involved with emerging technology to enhance the way we collect, sort and manufacture with scrap plastics.
Waste360: How did you develop the plastics recycling side of the business?
Richie Getter: I wanted to expand our lines of revenue for the company within our existing infrastructure and realized early on that recycling companies that were not embracing change we’re either going out of business or being acquired.
I was very motivated to learning something new within our industry, not only to help the company become more profitable and grow but also to give us a competitive edge at the time with regards to services provided. It’s ironic because I failed miserably in chemistry while in school. I mostly began with site visits within our current clientele network to see what they were discarding or didn’t have a home for, which typically was plastic parts and films.
Over the years I continued to educate myself on end markets and the material specifications they were looking to source for their compounding or manufacturing operations. Eventually, we were handling manufacturing and distribution scrap plastics and I began learning more about the processing and compounding side of the scrap plastics industry.
Waste360: What makes you a steward of the environment, both professionally and personally?
Richie Getter: I believe I’m a steward of the environment from the commitment I’ve made over the last 20 years dedicating myself to learning an industry that is only profitable by keeping materials out of the landfill and in the supply chain. It has been quite the experience being able to witness, firsthand, the evolving recycling industry over the last 15 to 20 years. There have been some amazing improvements and achievements in all facets of our industry since the early 2,000’s but there is still so much more work to do.
Personally speaking, I’m an avid outdoorsman and can’t think of a better way to enjoy our short time on this earth than being outside with family and friends. I grew up backpacking and snowboarding as a young kid, getting into the mountains as much as possible during any season. As a youth I spent a ton of my time on the lakes and rivers of Central Texas enjoying water sports, and in my older age I’ve become addicted to mountain biking and I also try to saltwater fly fish when I can.
Properly taking care of and managing the beautiful resources God has given us to enjoy is something that is very dear to my heart both professionally and personally.
Waste360: What is your leadership style?
Richie Getter: My leadership style is to really engage with my peers from a cultural perspective and to create meaningful, transparent, and personable relationships. I believe when you can get on the same level with someone professionally, with respect for one another and the work that is being done, whether it’s at the very top or at the very bottom, success is inevitable.
I’m also a big believer in group collaboration, delegation and empowerment because regardless of where you are on an org chart, no single person has the right answer all the time. It takes a well-oiled team to move mountains in this industry. I also believe company culture is a top priority. If you don’t have a work environment that’s fun and enjoyable, surrounded by like-minded people, chances are successes may be fewer and far between.
Waste360: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
Richie Getter: Playing an instrumental part over the years in the growth of Balcones from a one-dimensional paper recycling company into a full environmental services company, along with the relationships I’ve built in this industry that have become friends for life.
Waste360: What do you like to do in your free time?
Richie Getter: I love enjoying free time with my wife and 18-month-old daughter outside in the plethora of beautiful spaces we have in and around central Texas. Although it’s beginning to get over crowded, so please don’t move here! I also volunteer my time with various trail advocacy groups that promote the sport of mountain biking weather its trail design and development, building and maintenance, or race promotions. Outside of mountain bikes, I enjoy golf, rock climbing, and photography.