Jerry Powell on stage.

Jerry Powell moderating a session at the 2019 Plastics Recycling Conference and Trade Show

My career trip as an editor started 38 years ago in a small office in Old Sacramento, Calif. where my wife and I launched Resource Recycling magazine. I was the only employee.

My joyous adventure as the owner of a recycling publishing and conference company has now ended: In early March 2019, my wife and I sold our firm, Resource Recycling, Inc., to the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR).

So now  seems like a fitting time to reflect on the experience of running this company.

In its early years, Resource Recycling magazine reported on the amazing growth of consumer recycling systems. As materials recovery increased, so did our firm. We eventually added publishing assets in the fields of plastics and electronics recycling, and we launched conferences in all three areas.

As the digital age emerged, we added online stories and e-newsletters to our product line. The firm now is the largest distributor of digital news in recycling, with 63,000 readers each week, and the company’s conferences have a total of about 4,000 attendees, 200 sponsors and nearly 400 exhibitors each year. The conferences are the largest in their fields.

When I look back on nearly four decades of reporting, I have several major reasons to be pleased. First, recycling is not dull, as innovation never ceases in this industry. We’ve seen remarkable advancements, such as optical sorting and the use of post-consumer plastic resin in food-contact applications. We’ve also seen stupid ideas fail, such as mixed solid waste composting. We now see fewer but larger businesses in this field due to consolidation.

Also, the workforce is far more diverse than in the past, especially with women now more prevalent in managerial positions. Too, what was originally a domestic industry is now a global enterprise.

With so much seminal change happening, it has been an invigorating experience to report on recycling’s formation and maturation. Every day is a fun challenge in terms of trying to get the story correct.

Memorable set of employees

The second major reason why my career has been so enjoyable was the opportunity to work with a remarkable group of employees over the years.

Environmental publishing and conference management attracts a unique set of talented people who have a desire to make the Earth a better place to live. They work hard, they play hard, and we have fun. Because of the work they do, my employees are rightfully seen as major recycling experts.

It’s been gratifying to see the levels of achievement attained by many of my former employees, with trade groups, businesses and government agencies seeking out these knowledgeable individuals.

I am extremely pleased about the new ownership of our company. We have had a business arrangement with APR for more than a decade, and we have great respect for their staff and board. The association was a natural choice for us, as the organization has guaranteed that all of our current staff will be retained, that the staff will maintain full editorial and conference agenda freedom, and that our office will stay in wondrous Portland, Ore.

What’s to dislike about such a deal? Nothing.

The only wish I have after all this time is that readers of this column have as much enjoyment in their careers as I have had in mine.

Photo credit: Brian Adams Photo/Resource Recycling, Inc.

Van Dyk
Subscribe to the print magazine