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NERC in the News

Making Sense of Recycling’s Alphabet Soup

Resource Recycling, July 2010

Waste & Recycling News

By Henry Leineweber

State recycling organizations (SROs) may not be thriving, but they're certainly not sinking either. Surprising, considering that, at this time last year, conventional wisdom held that the impending demise of the National Recycling Coalition (NRC) threatened to cast SROs into the woods. With no unified national voice, recycling industry observers predicted that competing interests would undermine what was best for the recycling industry on the national stage. To make matters worse, the Great Recession sent demand for materials plummeting, while simultaneously making it harder for collection service providers, municipalities and processors to secure the funding they needed to sustain their operations. It was a perfect storm of circumstances.

These tough times forced state recycling organizations, from coast to coast, to make some difficult decisions over the past year. SROs may have the luxury of multiple options, regarding access to national resources and support; but, when it came to day-to-day operations and program budgets, many were faced with a diminishing amount of choices. Surprisingly though, SROs, either through structural adjustments or old-fashioned belt-tightening, have emerged in relatively stable condition. . . .

The dust is still settling on the national scene, but the inflamed opinions of a year ago seemed to have been soothed somewhat. . . Despite the failed merger attempt in 2009, Keep America Beautiful has still emerged as a leading national recycling organization in the eyes of many SROs. . . Tenaciously and seemingly miraculously, the NRC has also persisted, and continues to restructure with the goal of transitioning to a collaborative network of recycling individuals and organizations. . . NRC now faces competition from an unlikely source. The Recycling Organizations of North America (RONA) was formed in the fallout of the NRC collapse and includes many former members and prospective backers. . .

. . . [But] the reality is that no national body currently fills the needs of all SROs, thus most are pursuing relationships with multiple national organizations out of necessity. Additionally, recycling organizations are supplementing affiliation with a national group, with membership in a regional body like the Solid Waste Association of North America or the Northeast Recycling Council, which better represents their interests. . . .