A long and difficult summer for the National Recycling Coalition (NRC) has come to an end. Unfortunately, so has the organization.
As Waste Age's September issue was going to press, the NRC announced that it would file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The organization ceased operations at the close of business on Friday, Sept. 4, and terminated all staff members.
“The decision was a very difficult and troubling one, but in the end, as a matter of our fiduciary responsibility, the Board was left with very few options given the organization's cash position,” said Melinda Uerling, president of NRC's Board of Directors, in a press release. “Our hope — however distant right now — is that a stronger organization, with broad representation, may emerge from within our community.”
The news of NRC folding came after an attempt by the NRC's Board of Directors to merge the organization with Keep America Beautiful (KAB) failed. The board had promoted the merger as a way for NRC to solve its financial woes.
Fifty-seven percent of NRC members who voted supported the proposed merger. However, a two-thirds majority was required for the merger to proceed. Forty-six percent of NRC members voted on the proposal. The boards of both NRC and KAB had previously voted to approve the merger.
“Although the KAB proposal received the support of a significant majority of our members — 57 percent — it did not receive the necessary two-thirds majority in order for the NRC board to proceed with implementing the proposal,” said Uerling in a press release issued right after the election results were announced. “We recognized from the beginning that the two-thirds majority was a steep hill, and the results reflect that. We want to thank all of our members for participating in the election. The unexpectedly high turnout truly demonstrates their passion and support for the future of recycling in this country.”
“While we are of course disappointed by the outcome of the vote, Keep America Beautiful truly respects the opinion of NRC's membership in this very important matter,” said Matthew M. McKenna, president and CEO of Keep America Beautiful, in a statement also issued right after the merger vote. “The voting process has been a great opportunity for KAB to reach out to [recycling organizations] and their members, and to further engage in the issues facing recyclers, businesses, individuals and government. We look forward to continuing our work through these new contacts, and providing world class resources to recycling professionals and advocates, despite the vote outcome.”
Before the vote, some NRC members formed a group called “Save the NRC” that opposed the proposed merger on the grounds that it would “eliminate NRC as an independent voice for recycling, giving recyclers just a limited advisory role in an organization that has historically failed to support the structural changes that are essential if progressive recycling policies are to be adopted in this country.”
NRC's financial woes came to light this past spring when the organization, citing projected lackluster attendance and exhibitor support, cancelled its 2009 Annual Congress & Expo, which would have been held this fall in Portland, Ore.
In the midst of the merger talk, a group of recycling professionals that say they are unhappy with the recent plight of the NRC formed the Recycling Organizations of North America (RONA) and filed articles of incorporation with the Colorado Secretary of State's office. From the press release announcing RONA's founding: “The formation of RONA is perceived to be rising from a growing concern among past and current recycling leadership. Observers have likened it to a quick awakening of sleeping dragons who are ready to mobilize new leadership. Already, RONA's membership lists a rapidly growing number of recycling professional, companies and organizations from the U.S. and Canada.”