The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers is considering hiring a new director, a longtime government affairs consultant who has represented clients such as Coca-Cola Co., Illinois Tool Works Inc. and Eastman Kodak Co.
The group's executive board and a strategic planning task force have recommended unanimously to APR's membership that they hire Steve Alexander, president and founder of the small Washington-based public affairs firm CMR Group, to take over management of APR. The decision still must be ratified by APR's membership in a mail-in ballot by the end of the month.
CMR manages the Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition, which lobbies against trade restrictions for imports, including steel and lumber. Alexander has some familiarity with plastics: He worked as a regional manager for the Council for Solid Waste Solutions, a predecessor to the American Plastics Council, from 1989-92.
APR actually would be hiring CMR, and the firm would split its time with other clients. The hiring, though, would represent a significant move toward independence for the Arlington, Va.-based trade association.
Last year, the group lost its funding from APC, a substantial contributor, and has been trying to sort out its future amid what the group says is a shortage of recycled material in the United States. Recyclers complain about domestic collection stagnating at the same time as exports of waste plastic to China have skyrocketed.
APC, the Arlington-based trade group for the virgin resin industry, had paid the salary of APR's director and provided office space, but APC decided in late 2004 that it wanted to switch to funding the recycling group on a project-by-project basis.
APR wants to become a more independent, self-funding organization, and would pay Alexander's fees itself, said Scott Saunders, head of the APR task force that recommended hiring CMR. Saunders is also director of raw material procurement and resin sales for high density polyethylene recycler KW Plastics in Troy, Ala.
APR wants someone to promote its messages to the public and governments, especially state and local governments that control recycling programs. One challenge for plastics recycling is that higher prices for materials do not necessarily lead to more material being collected, as in other recycled markets like steel, said Saunders.
``Steve has extensive experience in dealing with industry issues that are very similar to what we deal with,'' Saunders said. ``In order to generate more supply of material, you have to work closely with state and local governments.''
The post-consumer recycling systems are underutilized, and could see a 25-30 percent increase in material processed without needing any additional infrastructure, he said. ``Our industry is tremendously undersupplied.''
APR leaders feel they are ``ready for a paradigm shift,'' away from the technical society that it began as, to a more vigorous trade group, said Jean Bina, an APR executive board member and commercial operations manager for PET recycler Phoenix Technologies LLC in Bowling Green, Ohio.
The group's current director, Robin Cotchan, will remain with the group through the end of the year, Bina said.
Alexander declined to comment until a decision is final. Cotchan could not be reached.