The scrap recycling industry is an economic powerhouse that ISRI and its members put on display for more than 2,300 state policymakers in Nashville during the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Legislative Summit in early August. In what is becoming a favorite reoccurring component of the legislators’ annual convention, ISRI's members came together to sponsor the Summit's Exhibit Hall Luncheon, transforming the space into our own private exhibit hall devoted to showing legislators all the facets of the recycling industry.
The NCSL Legislative Summit is the largest annual trade show for state legislators and legislative staff where they gather to exchange policy ideas for addressing common issues in the states. The venue also serves as a perfect stage for ISRI to bring recycling to life before those policymakers who define our industry and enact the laws that govern how the industry operates. The ISRI booth and commodity displays were designed to highlight how the different facets of the industry operate to conserve our nation's resources while driving job creation and economic growth.
With record-breaking numbers in attendance at the Nashville Summit this year, thousands of attendees were inundated with the ISRI message that Recyclers Power America. In fact, luncheon attendees had to walk through a literal gauntlet of life-size recycling displays to even reach the lunch buffets. And that was not all, ISRI members disbursed out to as many lunch tables as we could cover in order to sit and talk recycling with legislators while enjoying lunch. What’s that saying? There is no better way to get to know someone than to break bread together. And that is exactly what ISRI members set out to do.
There are few events that facilitate an opportunity for ISRI members to network at one venue with state legislators from around the nation. Unlike many of the other organizations in the Summit exhibit hall, ISRI does not come to sell a service or push a single model bill; instead, our members focus on making connections and revealing the $110 billion industry and more than half a million jobs the industry drives. And we are seeing results. As one legislator put it, "I'm glad ISRI is here at the NCSL Summit to get your message to legislators or many of us wouldn't know that you are a big industry with a lot of money involved rather than a bunch of 'tree huggers.'"
The NCSL Legislative Summit not only raises the industry’s profile among legislators but has succeeded in generating interest and action among ISRI members. Numerous first-time attendees from ISRI member companies joined the ranks this year as volunteers and found it to be an engaging experience. More than 60 ISRI members all draped in blue ISRI safety vests came to the luncheon and talked about their jobs and industry. Their presence and knowledge were the key to ISRI’s success. There was nowhere to turn without seeing an ISRI volunteer ready to share his or her story with the legislators.
ISRI would like to thank all of our members who donated their time and resources to making this luncheon a success! As the host chapter of the event, the ISRI Southeast Chapter pulled out all the stops this year to ensure legislators walked away with a positive impression of the recycling industry. Life-size displays covered every commodity represented by ISRI, and were staffed by local experts in those commodities ready to answer any questions. And, to add a touch of southern Nashville charm, the SE Chapter hired a local musician to play his guitar during the lunch and put several pieces scrap art on display demonstrating how scrap can also be beautiful.
The ISRI message is resonating with state policymakers but recyclers can't stop now. We need to continue to invite legislators to come and visit our yards and see the industry that will be impacted by government policies. We have to be vigilant and proactive in getting our message out because according to one state delegate, "[p]eople in general and state politicians in general do not appreciate the value that recyclers provide to the economy - financially & socially." If you'd like to be part of the conversation, contact Danielle Waterfield and help prepare for the 2020 NCSL Summit in Indianapolis!