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Back from the Brink

The National Recycling Coalition eschews bankruptcy for reorganization.

The final death knell for the National Recycling Coalition (NRC) appeared to ring earlier this year when the organization announced it would be filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. But the NRC Board of Directors voted unanimously in September to suspend bankruptcy filings and instead develop a reorganization plan over the following 30 days. The decision came after a petition from a group of NRC past presidents seemed to offer an alternative to oblivion.

“I believe the board as a whole preferred that the organization continue to exist if a legal path could be found, and today, we heard one existed. The unanimous vote reflects that. Any future for the NRC is conditional upon fundraising, successful negotiations with creditors and the development of a viable business plan,” said Melinda Uerling, president of the NRC Board of Directors, in a press release. “The pledge of support from past presidents of the organization was crucial.”

Mark Lichtenstein, speaking for the past NRC presidents, said, “We applaud the action of the board and are ready to invest the needed effort to assist in rebuilding the NRC.”

The board directed Uerling to begin working on the reorganization plan by forming committees comprised of board members and leaders within the membership.

NRC past presidents who signed the impassioned plea to save the organization included Clifford Case, Pete Grogan, Dale Gubbels, Terry Guerin, Susan Hubbard, Mark Lichtenstein, Gary Liss, Meg Morris, E. Gifford Stack, Richard Tichenor, Mary Wiard and Catherine Wilt. “For the world's largest economy — and biggest waster — to lose its most important independent voice for recycling is wrong,” the letter implored. “More importantly, it is not necessary!”

The NRC ceased operations and terminated all staff members at the close of business on Sept. 4, shortly after an attempt by the NRC's Board of Directors to merge the organization with Keep America Beautiful (KAB) failed to receive sufficient votes from NRC members. The board had promoted the merger as a way for NRC to solve its financial woes (the organization is currently saddled with an estimated $500,000 in debt), but many members felt that KAB's corporate ties would muddy NRC's recycling-first mission.

Nevertheless, shortly after the decision to file bankruptcy was announced (but before it was rescinded), three former NRC executives took positions with KAB.

Ed Skernolis, formerly acting executive director of the NRC, has become KAB's vice president of recycling, and Anjia Nicolaidis, formerly the NRC's deputy director, is now KAB's director of recycling. Alec Cooley, formerly the NRC's collegiate programs manager, joined KAB as manager of recycling programs.

“With nearly one-third of our affiliates acting as their communities' recycling coordinators, Keep America Beautiful has been working diligently in the past year to add greater depth and substance to our recycling programs,” said Matthew M. McKenna, president and CEO of KAB, in a press release. “We added the Curbside Value Partnership program under the leadership of Steve Thompson at the outset of 2009 to increase participation in existing curbside recycling programs. Now, with the addition of the core staff members of the NRC, we're poised to expand KAB's expertise further. We're very pleased to have Ed, Anjia and Alec on board.”

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