Richard Abrams, chairman of Consolidated Scrap Resources, Inc., was awarded the recently resurrected Industry Contribution Phoenix Award by ISRI’s Mid-Atlantic Chapter on Jan. 25, 2022. Until 2020, the Phoenix Award had been awarded by the Philadelphia Metals Association to a series of recipients to recognize their respective contributions to the industry. Abrams, who served as ISRI’s first full-term president following the merger of ISIS (Institute of Scrap Iron and Steel), which focused on ferrous, and NARI (National Association of Recycling Industries), which focused on nonferrous metals, paper, and other non-metallic commodities.
“The merger’s goal was to create a single trade association that spoke with one voice for the scrap recycling industry. He understood the need to bring together the different segments of the industry—then led by ISIS and NARI— to create a singular voice across the country to represent our industry,” says ISRI President Robin Wiener in a letter honoring Abrams.
Wiener had the opportunity to see Abrams in action when she joined ISRI in 1989 as the association’s environmental compliance manager near the end of Abrams’ term as ISRI president. “I saw first-hand what he was trying to accomplish for the industry,” she recalls. “During his term as president of ISRI, he confronted not only the challenge of merging two association cultures and traditions, but also a host of external challenges to the health and welfare of the recycling industry.” The long struggle to amend the Superfund legislation began under Abrams’ leadership.
When Wiener became ISRI’s Executive Director, Abrams was instrumental in providing her with support and friendship in her new position. “This new position allowed me to experience up close Richard’s kindness and dedication to the wellbeing of the industry. And I have also been pleased to witness how this commitment has been passed on to the next generation, with Richard’s son Ben taking on more active roles within ISRI over the last several years.” In his acceptance of the award, Abrams noted that while he was not asked to serve on the search committee to find a new executive director, he viewed Robin’s appointment to the position as “perhaps the best decision ever made by ISRI.”
Abrams got involved in the trade association through his family’s business. “Both my father and my cousin served as chapter presidents, and I was encouraged by them to follow the same path,” he says. “It took time away from our business, but they understood.”
His work at the chapter level began around 1972. “I worked with and became good friends with quite a few very dedicated people,” he recalls. “As chapter officers we planned and set up chapter dinner-meetings and programs and worked on quite a few issues that were very important to our members, primarily in the legislative area.”
One of the legislative issues was working to secure legislation that exempted the industry from paying the Pennsylvania Capital Stock Tax. While the legislation caused some controversy among members of the chapter, it was nothing Abrams and the other officers couldn’t handle. “With the exception of single proprietorships and partnerships, the exemption benefited all of our member companies. Some members objected, and we had to call a special meeting on a cold and snowy night in Harrisburg to get it approved.”
Overall, it was very satisfying work for Abrams. Though many of the members who worked for the chapter ran competing businesses, everyone understood the importance of coming together to face issues that impacted the entire industry. “The only way to resolve them was by working together to get the results we needed,” Abrams says. “I consider all of the people with whom I worked with to be good friends then, and the ones still with us, good friends today.”
Abrams has held many jobs, first working for ISIS and then for ISRI at both the national and chapter levels. For him, though, he said that the best and most satisfying job and the one he most enjoyed was serving as president of the former Central Pennsylvania Chapter. “So, this award and having my work recognized by people who I respect and admire is a great privilege,” he says. “Beyond being a privilege, receiving this award is a great honor and one that neither me nor my family will ever forget.”
Photos courtesy of Benjamin Abrams.