July 10, 2012
NERC is celebrating its 25th anniversary. NERC staff have worked with countless individuals through the years—board members, advisory members, funders, project participants, and others. We set about to identify who we felt were the most influential people in NERC's history. We asked people to share their thoughts about NERC and its history to be posted in the NERC blog. To help them out we asked them a couple questions.
Lois B. Hager was a former NERC Board Member representing the State of Connecticut. Her responses reveal some of NERC's early history.
Tell us about yourself first. When did you first become involved with NERC and how long were you actively involved?
I was one of the original representatives. Victor Bell in RI, John Schall in MA, and I in CT were organizing our state's recycling programs. We decided to try to help each other and met in RI to discuss our programs and needs. This must have been in about 1987 shortly after CT's mandatory recycling act was passed by the legislature. I can't remember whether Shelley Dresser attended that first meeting, but soon afterwards she got funding from the Council of State Governments to start an organization of state recycling officials. This evolved into NERC and drew representatives from the New England states as well as New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
What were you doing then, and what you're doing now?
I was Connecticut's State Recycling Coordinator, working in the Department of Environmental Protection. I had written CT's recycling plan as part of its solid waste management plan in the early 1980s and headed the recycling program when it became mandatory in 1987. I retired from the CT Department of Environmental Protection as Director of the Division of Waste Planning and Standards in 2000 and am now working on open space and farmland preservation.
Your thoughts about NERC—
What are some of your fondest memories of NERC?
The people, of course. It was a wonderful group of committed public servants trying to start something new and make it effective.
What do you consider to be NERC's greatest strengths? Greatest achievements?
Our ability to work as a team to convince industries to take recycling seriously was our greatest strength. Because we represented so many states and because we researched the issues and worked together, we could not be ignored. Our greatest achievements in the early days were with the newspaper and plastics industries.
What role do you see NERC as having played in the recycling industry?
By mandating recycling collections and labels and funding recyclables processing facilities, we demonstrated that we could produce a clean enough stream of recyclables to be reutilized in industrial production. Once that happened, the private sector was willing to cooperate and then take over the project.
What are the most pressing issues facing the recycling industry today and in the next five years?
Although it's not directly to this point, I think we all need to realize that recycling is only a small piece of what we must do to protect the environment. I sometimes feel guilty for having spent so much time on recycling when we really should also have been focusing on source reduction and greenhouse gas emission reduction.
What role do you think NERC should play in addressing those issues?
NERC's strength was always, and undoubtedly still is, its ability to bring public officials, and sometimes industry, together to search for coordinated, effective policies to protect the environment, whether in the context of recycling or some other environmental problem.
Our appreciation to Lois for sharing her thoughts about NERC.
Guest Blogs represent the opinion of the writer and may not reflect the policy or position of the Northeast Recycling Council, Inc.