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Date: November 21, 2017

NERC’s Fall Conference—An event to remember!

Last week, a robust crowd of more than 140 people from 25 states, the District of Columbia, and two Canadian provinces gathered at the Lord Jeffery Inn in Amherst, Massachusetts, for the Northeast Recycling Council's Fall Conference and 30th Anniversary celebration. At the conference, many of the most timely and pertinent issues of sustainable materials management were discussed.  

Opening the Conference was Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, who in his remarks commended attendees for working towards solutions to issues that affect all of us.  Following Commissioner Suuberg, keynote speaker David Levine of the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) highlighted several factors driving more widespread acceptance of sustainability.  

The goal of ASBC is to “help catalyze a vibrant, just, and sustainable economy,”   Levine said. He pointed out that the triple bottom line—financial, environmental, and social—has grown in appeal throughout the corporate world. The appeal of the concept extends to the materials management industry, Levine continued, stressing the importance of strategies such as standardized recycling labeling, pay-as-you-throw collection programs, zero waste strategies, and extended producer responsibility.

“Local recycling jobs and other materials management jobs are part of building strong local economies,” Levine said. 

Two days of Conference sessions addressed topics relating to the future of sustainable materials management; the involvement of brand name companies in recycling; extended producer responsibility; electronics reuse and consumers’ right to repair; reuse of surplus furnishings; training recycling industry trainers; diverse strategies for mitigating the impact of single-use plastic grocery bags; and construction and demolition debris recycling in the Northeast. 

Conference speakers included: Shannon Davis of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Liza Casella of Casella Waste Systems, Lisa Skumatz of Skumatz Economic Research Associates, Monique Oxender of Keurig Green Mountain, Kathleen Niesen  of PepsiCo,  Julie Zaniewski of Unilever, Resa Dimino of Resource Recycling Systems, Peter Cooke of Manomet, Megan Pryor of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Gary Cook of Greenpeace, Kyle Wiens of iFixit, Mark Lennon of The Reuse Network, Ray Dube of Coca Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England, Jennie Romer, Esq. of, Tonya Randell of More Recycling & the WRAP Recycling Action Program, Sherill Baldwin of the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, and Ted Siegler and Natalie Starr of DSM Environmental Services.

The Conference presentations can be found in the Conference Archives section on NERC’s website.

NERC also celebrated its 30th Anniversary during the Conference.  Former board members, staff, and other associates were in attendance, as were several young professionals pursuing careers in sustainable materials management.  NERC presented Environmental Sustainability Leadership Awards to George MacDonald of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Resource Recycling Magazine, Cox Enterprises, Alex Williams of Blue Earth Compost, and Molly Ettenborough of the Town of Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Additional organizations and individuals were commended for their outstanding work in the field.   

NERC is a multi-state non-profit organization that is committed to environmental and economic sustainability through responsible solid waste management. Its programs emphasize source reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP), and decreasing the toxicity of the solid waste stream in the 11-state region comprised of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

For more information about NERC’s Spring Conference, go to workshops/event-agenda.