Julie RhodesSince 1978, the National Recycling Coalition (NRC) has been evolving and working to meet the needs of those engaged in recycling activities. Over those 38 years, NRC has advanced many issues and programs, such as organizing the National Recycling Congress, hosting many working task forces, and working with Congress on legislative initiatives and the White House on executive orders.

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It’s been seven years since NRC experienced its most difficult year and three years since NRC turned the corner on its fiscal challenges and began its rebuilding phase. Today, NRC is out of debt, led by a recharged board, and it is working with its 23 affiliate recycling organizations (ROs) across North America and Puerto Rico.

It is now time to turn our sights toward a more dynamic future for our organization and its members. This week NRC adopted a new Strategic Plan of action that will provide the basis for creating a revitalized, relevant organization that serves its members’ needs in a responsive and beneficial way.

The plan includes four strategic priorities, and they are listed below (in no particular order):

Represent the industry

NRC will strive to be seen as the primary forum where stakeholders from all parts of recycling – industry, government, NGOs, trade associations and individuals – come together to share information and address issues of mutual concern.

Over the past year, NRC addressed, head on, the anti-recycling messages in the national media. This kind of proactive response should be expected from NRC in the future under our Strategic Plan. NRC, through many avenues, intends to serve its stakeholders. From a partnership with the 2017 Resource Recycling Conference to more webinars, white papers and communication, NRC is committed to providing a great service to those in the trenches working hard in support of waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting daily.

Strengthen RO affiliate partnerships

NRC is committed to strengthening the relationships with its affiliated recycling organizations.

NRC’s 23 recycling organization (RO) affiliates are our most vital assets, as they are also the entities that make us 6,000-members strong. Our Strategic Plan specifically addresses a wide variety of actions to support and build our ROs and to strengthen NRC’s relationship with them.

As an example, to fortify the connection between the NRC board and RO leaders, each NRC board member will connect with an RO to serve as a conduit of two-way information sharing. In addition, NRC’s president will hold regular town-hall calls with members to get his finger on the pulse of our membership’s current activities and greatest challenges, which will help drive NRC efforts moving forward.

Drive supportive policy

NRC will strive to be seen as the reasoned voice on policy issues that affect recycling and is a valued resource for advocacy work.

Over the past two years, NRC has adopted several new, timely positions through its thoughtful advocacy process, including approving an updated definition of recycling, providing a policy on mixed waste processing, and adopting a policy on incineration. In all, NRC maintains 41 policy positions to draw from, and will continue to both advocate for our current policies and drive future policy initiatives.

Because of the changing landscape of recycling, it’s critical that NRC continues to address issues that arise in a timely fashion, as well as initiate and educate about policies that support (or do not hinder) recycling activities.

Grow organization sustainably

NRC will work to expand membership and establish diverse sources of funding, which will ensure the group’s organizational health and vitality.

As with any organization, NRC’s fiscal sustainability is fundamental to its success. NRC is working to create more value intended to drive additional membership, sponsorships and partnerships. In our Strategic Plan, NRC desires to grow its affiliate network, provide greater opportunities for recycling-related trade associations, and tap into the recycling business community. NRC also aims to continue to build the recycling infrastructure, educate about the benefits of recycling, and advocate for policies and programs that enhance the recycling terrain.

In the short term, these activities will be addressed by NRC’s volunteer board. However, per our mid-term plan, hiring an executive director will become a key objective to expanding NRC’s capacity in the future.

Any organization that has survived for more than three decades finds the need to reinvent itself from time to time. It’s imperative that NRC look upon the current landscape, confer with its membership, and implement a plan of action that meets the needs of the industry.

With the adoption of our Strategic Plan, NRC believes fully that we are doing just that. NRC is currently in the best position to educate, advocate, communicate and mobilize the recycling community around issues of markets, policy and programs that make our many stakeholders – local, state and federal governments, businesses, organizations and individuals – stronger, more united and more successful.

We look forward to working together to make this plan a reality. Together, we are recycling!

Julie Rhodes, an independent consultant, is the current NRC board chair and treasurer and is co-chair of the NRC Strategic Planning Committee. She brings 25 years of experience to clients in the areas of waste prevention, reuse and recycling. She can be contacted at [email protected].

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by Resource Recycling, Inc. If you have a subject you wish to cover in a future Op-Ed, please send a short proposal to [email protected] for consideration.