A history of industry advocacy

Columns - Editor’s Letter

Advocating on behalf of the recycling industry at the local, state and federal levels is critical in light of the present circumstances.

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May 6, 2019

The recycling industry has long been misunderstood by the general public and politicians. The degree of this misunderstanding has come into better focus over the last year as the “collapse” of the recycling industry has been reported in local and national newspapers. This situation makes advocating on behalf of the industry at the local, state and federal levels even more critical. Such advocacy is something that many industry professionals have embraced for some time.

Take Mark Lewon, whose company is the subject of this month’s cover story, “Thriving in mining country,” for example. Lewon is president of Utah Metal Works, Salt Lake City, and he and his father and brother, Don and Chris, have prioritized being on the lookout for industry changes in addition to advocating for the recycling industry at the federal, state and local level.

These tendencies likely have served the company well in the current political environment, when trade policy appears to be having a more significant effect on recycling than the fundamentals of supply and demand.

Lewon has been involved with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Washington, for almost as long as he has been working in his family’s business, having volunteered for positions in his regional ISRI chapter and then with ISRI national committees. He also served a two-year term as the association’s national chair beginning in April 2016.

Lewon sees the rapid changes of recent years continuing for some time. He also says each election cycle can lead to new questions for the recycling industry. Lewon points to turnover among elected officials within his state as one such example. “We find that we have to go back to our regular trips up to the state capitol in order to educate all of the new legislators because they have no idea our industry exists,” he tells Recycling Today’s Brian Taylor.

“The recycling industry has long been misunderstood. This situation makes advocating on behalf of the industry at the local, state and federal levels critical.”

Such involvement was a clear theme of Lewon’s chairmanship of ISRI. In a Q&A with Recycling Today during that time, he said, “As an industry, we have a lot at stake, especially at the state and local levels. This is the case both legislatively and from a regulatory standpoint. … If the recycling industry does not take a proactive approach to educating lawmakers and other stakeholders, there could be serious harm.”

In that Q&A, available at www.RecyclingToday.com/article/multiple-roles-to-play, Lewon shares how his company took action when a Salt Lake City mayor was not supportive of the industry’s issues. “When it came time for the election, we helped another candidate out with resources, and I believe we were among those who helped her to get elected. … This is a clear example of the importance of developing strong grassroots advocacy at all levels of government.”

What issues are prompting you or your company to get involved in the political process? Let me know by emailing me at dtoto@gie.net or by posting to our Twitter feed at @RecyclingToday.