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This year's nominations period for NRC Board
closes on June 29
at 5 pm EST. The story about
what's happening with the NRC in NCRA News suggests that there may be
room for improvement in NRC leadership.
The NRC is governed by a board of directors comprised of our members. Each year, NRC members are given the opportunity to take on a leadership role in the Coalition by running for the Board of Directors. NRC seeks board members with strong leadership skills and favors candidates with experience working with state recycling organizations.
This year's nominations period for the candidate slate is now open and will close on June 29. Members will elect six people to the board this year. All interested members must complete the nomination package by June 29. While you can run from the floor at the Congress & Expo in Denver, the overwhelming majority of board members have been elected through the nomination and slate process, and we strongly recommend that you submit an application if you'd like to serve as a board member.
To help our members make more informed decisions when they cast their ballots, this year we will again post on our website the responses to the questions in the nominations package by each candidate on the slate.
Nominations are due at 5:00 p.m. EST on Friday, June 29, 2007. For more information, download the Nomination Package ( http://www.americarecyclesday.org/mobius/nompacket07.pdf) and the Board Nomination Form ( http://www.americarecyclesday.org/mobius/board_nomination_form07.doc ).
From: "NCRA - Northern California Recycling Association"
NRC Trashes CT Bottle Bill Expansion
By Arthur Boone
The National Recycling Coalition (NRC) has a policy of neutrality on bottle bills. But without telling Connecticut recyclers, NRC Staff Director Kate Krebs accompanied a known bottle-bill opponent to a private meeting in Hartford with State Representative Richard Roy, a chief sponsor of SB 1289, an expansion of Connecticut's bottle bill. After the meeting Rep. Roy asked the NRC for clarification of its position and received a selfcontradictory response from the group's President. Some version of the bill passed two committees and as of April 25 was on the calendar of the Connecticut General Assembly. The question here is - what's up with the NRC?
Clifford Case and a few recycling activists founded the National Recycling Coalition
in the late 1970s primarily to sue the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
for not complying with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976's (RCRA's) requirements to use recycled paper in its paper products. The organization was introduced to recyclers by Gary Liss at the First National Recycling Congress held in Fresno in 1980
organized by the Committee for a National Recycling Policy, the California Resource Recovery Association (the first statewide recycling association, founded in 1974), the USEPA, the (old) California Waste Management Board, and the local Fresno-Clovis Solid Waste Authority. The organizing vanguard included CRRA board members and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Neil Seldman especially. The attendees were program operators,
predominantly nonprofit managers from around the country and representatives
from aluminum, paper, and glass recycling companies. Nearly 400 people attended this
Earth Day event, and the National Recycling Coalition was born.
For at least a decade the NRC grew slowly, relying on volunteer leadership and its annual conference. People we know who were heavily involved include Gary Liss and Rick Anthony; Gary was the second NRC President. Pete Grogan, then with Eco-Cycle and now with Weyerhaeuser, Eric Lombardi from Eco-Cycle in Boulder, and Jack deBell at the University
of Colorado in Boulder were other early leaders. Rick was the Vice President for ten years from 1980 - 1990, and Jerry Powell was Chair of the Board of Directors.
The only people with any money involved in the NRC in the early days were the beer and soft drink bottlers and the aluminum and glass companies. By the late 1970s several states had bottle bills, and the National Soft Drink Association, now known as the American Beverage Association (ABA), in order to protect the grocers who hated the idea of old bottles in their stores, kept the NRC in a neutral position on bottle bills.
Rick Anthony remembers, as NRC Policy VP, pushing the national recycling policy through the board of directors by consensus after eliminating all references to container deposits.
Around 1990 the NRC started getting funds from the USEPA, which allowed them to create a fulltime staff and a research director, among others, and created the Recycling Advisory Committee, which had Al Gore as a key member. Will Ferretti came on as national staff director
in 1996 and lasted five years until terminated by the Board in October 2001.
Kate Krebs, who had been board president and was deputy director, took over for a transition period and was then given a two-year contract to be staff director in April 2002. But the federal money had run out by then, and those were tough times.
After the first nine bottle-bill states adopted their bills, ending in 1986, further enactments seemed difficult. Despite the efforts of the Container Recycling Institute to speak forcefully about the
value of bottle bills (currently the eleven states with bottle bills account for 29% of the population but almost half of all beverage container recycling), for about 15 years there were no statutory enactments.
Whatever "green" energy was available for recycling wasn't going into bottle bills. Things looked bleak. But then Hawaii got a law and California's law was expanded to cover juices and water containers. About this same time the bottlers and the grocers started getting more involved in the NRC to keep the NRC neutral on bottle bills.
In 2002 Waste News published an opinion piece advocating a national bottle bill. In preparation for the December 2002 NRC Board meeting, Kate Krebs asked the Board to approve a resolution calling on the beverage industry to adopt verifiable goals to increase beverage container recycling.
In 2003 the Beverage Packaging Environmental Council (BPEC, or "bpeck") was formed within the NRC.
At the Minneapolis NRC convention in August 2005, BPEC the consultants made their first report to an NRC annual assembly. The consultants noted that the recycling rates are so high in bottle-bill states that it was the other states where work was needed. The consultants studiously
avoided any further discussion of bottle bills, and both Pat Franklin from CRI and I spoke against excluding the impact of bottle bills in measuring programs and their success in diverting containers from the waste stream. We were ignored.
The NRC's inability to get off the center on many progressive recycling issues led to the formation in 1995 of the Grass Roots Recycling Network (GRRN), now staffed by former NCRA President Linda Christopher. The only policy committee left at NRC is headed by Stephen Bantillo of San Jose.
The current flap
Recently the NRC, through BPEC, began rolling out a new program known as "Model Cities," which will support local curbside efforts in a few communities. In February 2007, with the knowledge of the Connecticut Recycling Coalition (CRC), Kate Krebs went to Hartford and spoke
affirmatively about the possibilities of a new Hartford curbside initiative under the Model Cities program with State officials from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and some local (but not State) elected officials.
On Tuesday March 6 the chairs of the State legislative committees considering the Connecticut bottle bill expansion, SB 1289, held a pubic educational forum; people both pro and con were invited to speak. Pat Franklin, recently retired as long-time head of the Container Recycling
Institute in Washington, spoke on the pro side. On that day Representative Richard Roy, a Connecticut legislator who is Chair of the Joint Environmental Committee and well known as an SB 1289 proponent, spoke to Betty McLaughlin, a seasoned Audubon Society lobbyist in Hartford
who had recently been selected to replace Pat Franklin as head of the Container Recycling Institute, and told her that Kate Krebs was coming to town the following day to speak with him.
On Wednesday March 7, without any contact with or any foreknowledge of the CRC, and in the company of Carrie Rand-Anastasiades, a lobbyist for the Connecticut Food Association and a person well known as a bottle bill opponent, Kate Krebs went to the State Legislative Office Building (LOB) and met with Assemblymember Roy, characterized by Pat Franklin as "the chief sponsor of the expansion bill."
There is no record of what was said in the Roy-Krebs conversation, but Mr. Roy later characterized Ms. Krebs' remarks as opposing bottle bills as "competition" for curbside programs.
Apparently some members of the CRC were in the LOB at the same time and thus became aware of this meeting, if not of Ms. Krebs' exact remarks, and told Mr. Roy that the NRC was neutral to bottle bills, not opposed. The same day, these people also notified Cyril John ("C.J.") May, President of the Connecticut Recycling Coalition (and a Yale University employee), of this meeting.
On March 15 Mr. Roy wrote to the President of the Board of NRC, David Refkin, reported his conversation with Ms. Krebs, and asked for a clarification of the NRC's position. Copies went to the NRC officers, the CRC, and the state DEP. When word of Ms. Krebs' visit came to Mr. May, alleging that she lobbied against SB 1289, Mr. May called her on Thursday March 9 in Washington. He considered her his professional colleague and had spoken to her many times before. By his
account, she claimed that she had never opposed bottle bill expansion and had spoken only of the superiority of curbside programs, touting the Philadelphia experiment with vouchers/rewards
(the "Recyclebank") for people who use the curbside program.
By Mr. May's account, Ms. Krebs was also distressed that people were spreading rumors
about her. Mr. May was initially satisfied with her claims, but after considering the Roy correspondence of March 15 changed his mind, and on March 23 sent an e-mail to NRC President Refkin with copies to all NRC boardmembers, wanting clarification of exactly what the NRC policies and practices were. He suggested that the Board should discuss this issue at its upcoming meeting scheduled for March 28 in New York City. There is no record of the Board's deliberations in the NCRA files.
On April 3 David Refkin wrote back to Representative Roy with a copy to Mr. May. After explaining the NRC support for the upcoming curbside promotional program in Hartford, Mr. Refkin remarked in paragraph 3 as follows: "NRC, hence its membership, currently remains neutral on the issue of bottle bill laws. We believe that an expansion of the Connecticut bottle bill law would negatively impact the residential recycling infrastructure and cause a dramatic increase in residential collection and processing costs. We also believe that by reducing throughput of materials in an
infrastructure that recently included over $6 million in capital investments expansion will cause financial harm to the companies that have invested in the business of recycling." This is presumably a reference to the Hartford recyclables hauler, who may have invested in new collections or clean MRF facilities; I have no details here.
On April 16 Mr. May wrote back to Mr. Refkin and said that he found Mr. Refkin's letter "self-contradictory," citing the paragraph above. He further asked "who in the NRC has over-ridden the
neutrality stance put in place years ago." He also found questionable Ms. Krebs' claim of neutrality, since her original NRC mission to Hartford involved only local questions, not state ones.
Towards the end of his e-mail he asked, "What is more important than whether or not CT's bottle
bill is expanded is whether the NRC remains an organization that can be trusted...," and
after various conciliatory statements he concluded.
On Friday April 20 I heard about this conflict for the first time during a conference call of the CRRA Policy Committee and sent out my own inquiry in which I erred in understanding initially that Ms. Krebs had testified to a legislative committee rather than having spoken privately to a legislator. I was very angry to think she had gone over the head of a state association to bear witness against a bill that the state organization was supporting.
On Monday April 23 I received notes from several people confirming that although I had some errors in my understanding, in general the events I had heard of did take place. On Tuesday April 24 Lisa Skumatz, NRC Boardmember and a long-time friend of NCRA, responded that the NRC
Executive Committee was aware of the issues in Hartford in March and was assured it was only a "miscommunication." She noted that after getting my note she had nonetheless inquired immediately of Mr. Refkin on what was happening.
I have written at least twice to California members of the NRC Board (Bantillo in San Jose, Kattchee in Oakland, and Young in Davis). Only Mr. Young has replied, to the effect that all NRC transactions should be on the table and above-board. On Wednesday April 25 I asked the
Alameda County Waste Management Authority, which commonly gives $5,000 to $10,000 each year to support the NRC's annual conference, to suspend any funding for the NRC pending a completion of this inquiry. Staff assured me they would wait.
On Wednesday May 2 Lisa Skumatz emailed to say that Mr. Refkin had told her that he would respond to my inquiry the next day. At press time I had not yet heard from him.
On March 21 and April 10, the Connecticut Senate's Environment Committee and Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committees, respectively, approved the bottle-bill expansion. As of press time, this bill did not pass. Word on the street is that it may come to life again as part of a different bill.
In the Spring of 1984 Richard Gertman was speaking at the California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA) conference in Davis and noted that we had three programs to make recycling
happen: dropoff, buyback, and curbside. Each appealed to a different market: dropoff for the seriously committed, buyback for those to whom the money is important, and curbside for those for whom convenience is key. (We also have people, paid and unpaid, going through trash, to recover materials to reduce landfill-bound loads or to recover items of value, but that's not important here.)
Mr. Gertman is right. But since we all are folks of mixed motives, anyone can go back and forth between these collection systems as they choose. To my mind, choice is the most important thing; people need to feel free to exercise their options, recognizing that the guy pushing the shopping cart down the street full of beverage containers or the yuppie with the back of
his SUV full of cardboard after a move-in isn't like themselves. This, I believe, is the truth. Choice is important, and one size does not fit all.
If I were a hanging judge, I would say fire Kate Krebs and ask Richard Refkin to resign as NRC President. But the evidence is not that conclusive. If I were Carl Bernstein and Kate Krebs were
Richard Nixon, I might hang on to this little contratemps, but I'm not and neither is she. The NRC has been chronically underfunded compared to SWANA or NSWMA, which are still patting recycling on the head as a "good little boy," and Kate found a way through BPEC to make a place for herself and her organization in a big city where money talks loudly. And NRC, like many so-called "neutral" nations, never wants to anger its big, aggressive neighbor. If the BPEC consultants were right in 2005 that a lot more needs to be done in non-bottle-bill states to beef up recycling where much less is taking place, then BPEC should stay focused on that issue and stay out of bottle-bill states. As it is, with the limited facts we have, Kate Krebs and David Refkin have seriously damaged their credibility and by now it's much too late to repair that loss of public confidence. As my buddy says, "The key ingredient in all sales is trust," and the NRC no longer has mine. I don't see much national leadership on our issues, and clearly the NRC is not the place to look.
Some people think I don't like Kate Krebs. She has the suave blandness of many people high in public circles and knows how to stay out in front of her constituency most of the time. But for those of us living in a state with strong official policy in support of waste reduction and recycling who have seen annual garbage production decline only 6% in 15 years, we need another path - and we won't get it from her or from the NRC.
For better or worse, we here in the Bay Area (and maybe our brothers and sisters in Oregon and Washington, all of which Ernest Callenbach included in the separatist nation of Ecotopia in his sci-fi novel in the 1970s), will have to invent the future. Misadventures, such as Kate Krebs in Hartford and the clumsy letter from the NRC President, will not help us.
Arthur Boone has been a recycling professional since 1983 and is the Chair of the Sierra Club
of California's Zero Waste Committee, the environmental representative on the Alameda County
Recycling Board, and the long-time Chair of NCRA's Education Committee. He appreciates
the people who wrote and sent him documents, and he especially thanks Rick Anthony, Pat
Franklin, and Gary Liss for straightening out the NRC background section.
An impressive research effort documented the information in this story. In particular, Mary Lou Van Deventer, Janice Sitton, and Arthur Boone exhibited strong ethics, diligence, and teamwork to ensure that facts are accurate and presented without bias. All opinions are noted as such. NCRA News welcomes factual corrections as well as opinions on this matter and will make every effort to run them in future issues.
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