The American Plastics Council is cutting its annual funding of the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, which has included paying the salary of APR's only staff person. Now, APC will fund specific projects with APR.
It's not clear how the change will affect APR, or how much money APC plans to spend in its new role. The switch comes when other recycling-oriented trade groups also are scaling back.
APC has been providing about $80,000 a year to APR, a substantial part of the group's budget, including in-kind contributions like office space and, since 1996, the salary of its sole staffer. Both groups are in Arlington, Va.
APC President Rod Lowman said APR will have to vie for money on a project-by-project basis, like other recycling efforts that APC supports. He declined to say how much APC has in that recycling budget, but he noted APC's own budget has been cut sharply in recent years. APC's members are manufacturers of virgin resin.
``We absolutely support APR and want it to be a viable organization,'' Lowman said. He said the recycling sector is having difficulties, and APC has provided money to the bottled-water industry and soft drink companies to boost the supply of material recycled.
APR Director Robin Cotchan said the group has enough money to spend 2005 figuring out how to structure itself, and the group is looking at ways to raise money. She said it is not clear how APR will be staffed after the transition.
Cotchan said APR understands why APC is making the change, and said the funding never was assumed to be permanent.
``We'll continue to have a good relationship with APC,'' she said. ``We have lots of ideas and things in the works that will get us through a transitional year.''
APR board member and treasurer Tamsin Ettefagh said the group is grateful for the $1.1 million that APC has given APR during the past 11 years. She said APC does not owe APR any particular support. But she said the decision could be a mistake, because APC's support has helped inoculate the virgin resin industry from criticism from environmental groups dismayed by low recycling rates.
``Our industry is suffering with the lack of supply,'' said Ettefagh, vice president of Envision Plastics, a high density polyethylene recycler in Reidsville, N.C. ``To lose some of our financial support, the timing is not the best.''
APR has been trying to mount an aggressive campaign to address industry problems. The group briefly toyed with a lobbying campaign supportive of bottle bills, but rejected its highly charged language, noting that APC and other APR supporters vehemently oppose bottle bills.
Ettefagh said she does not see as many APC resources going to recycling. She also noted that another recycling-oriented trade group, the National Association for PET Container Resources in Charlotte, N.C., laid off most of its staff in the spring and curtailed much of its activity.
She said the plastics recycling sector suffers because it is not integrated with the virgin resin industry - unlike with paper, aluminum and steel companies. Still, she said, the availability of recycled material has helped the virgin resin industry develop new markets, like some pipe applications and plastic lumber.