The National Recycling Coalition has canceled its annual show, citing a massive drop in expected attendance, and is proposing partnering with Keep America Beautiful, which could be a tough sell.
The NRC board of directors notified its members and supporters May 7 that it has decided to pursue a formal relationship with Keep America Beautiful after months of consideration. The board looked at other options, including partnerships with other groups, downsizing and even ceasing operations.
Today's extraordinary times required extraordinary imagination and measures if the NRC were to have a vibrant future, the board said in a letter. We believe that the partnering of NRC and KAB is the best path to realizing that future.
At this point, the groups are only negotiating, KAB spokesman Robert Wallace said. The boards of both organizations will work on the proposal over the next few weeks.
We're asking people to keep an open mind and look at the package, said Ed Skernolis, acting executive director of the NRC. We hope people will be passionate and respond to that package and give us their advice and their opinions.
Given the diversity of the membership of this organization, there is no perfect solution, nor one that is likely to please everybody. Our diversity has a price tag associated, but it's also the great attribute of this organization. We welcome the dialogue.
The 28th Annual Congress & Exposition had been scheduled to be held in Portland, Ore., Oct. 4-7. The NRC board notified members April 29 that it had canceled the show, after surveying members and nonmembers to determine how many were planning to attend.
It was a pretty clear message that we were going to lose a significant number of expected attendees, based largely on travel restrictions [and] budgets, Skernolis said. It became a question of whether or not we took the risk of holding essentially what might be considered a failed event.
Getting people to attend a conference on the West Coast is a challenge under normal conditions, said Rick Winterhalter, CEO of the Association of Oregon Recyclers. Throw in a recession, and it's a recipe for a huge drop in attendance.
It really was unfortunate [NRC] had to make that decision, Winterhalter said. We're seeing lower numbers for our summer conference as well.
A partnership with Keep America Beautiful would be a tougher pill to swallow, Winterhalter said.
KAB is seen as a proponent of curbside recycling over bottle bills, especially by bottle bill supporters.
While the work of local KAB groups is valiant, the national organization does nothing to encourage corporations to do their share in preventing litter and waste or to take responsibility for their packaging waste, and that's not an organization NRC should be aligning itself to, said Pat Franklin, former executive and founder of the Container Recycling Institute.
Some NRC members, outraged by the proposed partnership, are calling for the group's board of directors to step down. They got us into this mess, said Gary Liss of Gary Liss & Associates, who served as NRC president from 1981-83 and was a founding board member. They should resign. They've all got a conflict of interest now. They can't sort their way out of this.
Washington-based NRC is about $500,000 in debt. In the midst of the uncertainty over its future, David Refkin stepped down as NRC board president May 4. Melinda Uerling, who was serving as vice president, has replaced him. Rebecca Mebane, director of conferences and meetings, left the group May 1.
The California Resource Recovery Association is advising NRC members to vote against joining KAB if they get the chance. The CRRA board of directors said that although KAB is a worthy national organization, its mission does not jibe with NRC's.