North Carolina has become the 11th state to recognize and commend the recycling industry and its workers, joining Massachusetts, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky, Texas, Arizona, and Louisiana. Though the process differs from state to state, like the others, North Carolina’s statement recognizes the essential nature of recyclers and the industry.
In order to recognize individuals and groups, the North Carolina General Assembly uses a Representative Statement which can be read into the official legislative record. On June 30, state Rep. Jason Saine submitted a statement into the House Journal commending ISRI, the Recycling Association of North Carolina (RANC), and their members for their role maintaining the economic viability of the supply chain for North Carolina manufacturers and their employees.
ISRI and its North Carolina members brought the idea to RANC’s attention. “ISRI let us know about similar resolutions in other states, and helped us with the writing,” says Rob Jordan, materials handling segment manager at Ascendum Machinery and RANC executive board member. Once Jordan heard about the opportunity, he looked no further than Saine, who’s been a champion of the recycling industry for years. “He works well with us when we’ve had issues come up,” Jordan says. “We told him [the statement] is something a lot of states are doing to recognize the recycling industry and essential workers. After he said yes, it was a matter of coordinating and getting everyone on the same page.”
North Carolina’s statement joins its predecessors in commending the essential role of recycled commodities—including steel, paper, electronics, aluminum, plastics, textiles, tires, and glass—in supplying manufacturers during the pandemic, and in their use as feedstock for vital products like hospital gowns, toilet paper, and respirators. It also recognizes recyclers’ role in supplying used auto parts, allowing drivers to access affordable repairs and maintain reliable transportation. According to the statement, “These indispensable businesses and their essential employees deserve to be applauded for producing and manufacturing necessary goods and products in North Carolina and throughout the world, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The statement demonstrates the vital role of the recycling industry to job creation and economic strengthen, says Ed Turlington, partner at Brooks Pierce, a lobbying firm for ISRI and RANC. “It also highlights the important role played by the industry during the pandemic,” he says. “Recyclers kept providing their important services even given many unprecedented challenges.” Incorporating the statement into the official legislative record, “helps tell the scrap recycling industry’s story,” Levetan says. “It explains what a critical role we play on a daily basis, to providing the raw materials necessary to manufacturers of all types of products, both within the state, and elsewhere, and how important that role was, in particular during the pandemic.”
In addition to the statement, Saine made floor remarks about the recycling industry in North Carolina. His remarks allowed lawmakers to learn more about the industry and its importance to the state. “Rep. Saine shared that there’s over 5,000 people in North Carolina employed by the recycling industry, and their average wage exceeds $50,000,” Jordan explains. “So it wasn’t just the statement, but also the bullet points that brought more attention to who we are and what we do.”
When considering the important role Saine played in getting recognition for the industry, Jordan recommends recyclers develop relationships with their local legislators. “When we talk about passing laws that could directly impact our industry either positive or negatively [having relationships with representatives] lets us have some input into how those laws are written,” Jordan explains. “I recommend going to your legislature and meet your representatives and senators. Get to know them, build a relationship with them, explain what your business does, so when the time comes, they have a better understanding of who you are and what you do.”
Photo courtesy of W Edward Callis III, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.