The group Businesses and Environmentalists Allied for Recycling, which started two years ago with high hopes of engaging industry and environmentalists in dialogue to boost recycling rates, is calling it quits, at least for now.
While BEAR will not shut down officially, it does plan, essentially, to hibernate. The group could announce, possibly as early as later this month, that it will not continue its work because it has been unable to get the beverage industry to participate in more talks.
``We haven't had any indication that the industry is ready to come back to the table to a BEAR-sponsored dialogue,'' said Ed Boisson, a consultant who led BEAR's effort last year to write a report on how to boost recycling. BEAR has closed its Atlanta office, but will be staffed from the Santa Monica, Calif., office of one of its members, environmental group Global Green USA.
BEAR's short history has been one of lofty goals crashing into thorny political reality: Coca-Cola Co., for example, played a major role with BEAR last year in writing that report on the state of container recycling, but the company later distanced itself from the project.
Some in the soft drink industry were critical of the report for what they said was a bias in favor of bottle bills, which industry opposes. BEAR participants strongly objected to any suggestion that their report was unfair.
Boisson said BEAR members remain interested in working with the beverage industry. BEAR members include environmental groups, carpet maker Beaulieu of America LLC and the Turner Foundation, which is affiliated with media mogul Ted Turner.
But the group struggled with attracting any interest from the beverage industry, outside of Coke's limited involvement.
One BEAR participant does not think the effort has stalled.
Bill Sheehan, executive director of the GrassRoots Recycling Network in Athens, Ga., said BEAR's work aided a new effort under way by the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Minnesota to open a dialogue with industry.
BEAR's report provided a much-needed framework for analyzing container recycling, even if it never enticed the beverage industry to get more involved, Sheehan said.
Sheehan said the government-led dialogue could be more successful because it carries the possibility of legislative action if solutions cannot be found. One model, he said, is for states to set recycling targets and leave it to industry to design a system, similar to that in British Columbia.
Boisson, who also is involved with the state and EPA effort, said the government agencies hope to decide how to proceed by the end of the year. North Carolina and Wisconsin also are involved.