Why Join a Recycling Industry Trade Associaton?

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We recently returned from Palm Springs and an annual meeting that we have attended 14 of the last 16 years. We find great value in attending, especially regarding educational sessions, networking opportunities and a chance to reconnect with industry friends. Participation in a trade association can pay off.

On the greater stage of commerce, reportedly 85 percent of businesses that fail are not members of their industry association. While fierce competitors at close quarters in the meeting room and at dinner may seem like an unwise idea to some operators, and the expense of joining such a group somewhat daunting to a new operation, active association members continue to find great value in participation. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), for example, offers these compelling reasons to join its ranks:

  • ISRI provides you with essential regulatory compliance guidance — worth thousands of dollars in the marketplace — often at no cost to members.
  • ISRI offers expert market analysis, access to the newest equipment and technology, and training and information that can bring money-saving ideas to your company.
  • ISRI allows you to keep abreast of breaking news affecting our industry through award-winning electronic and print publications aimed at your needs.
  • ISRI provides education and training opportunities to help you and your employees run safer and more efficient operations.

While the scope of benefits may vary in degree among associations, here are some important reasons to consider joining a trade group:

The Challenging of Legislative Incursions and Offering Regulatory Compliance Benefits 

In increasingly regulated industries such as those in the recycling sector, the benefits of guidance and lobbying support of a supporting industry association are becoming hugely important regarding maintaining profitability in an increasingly complex business environment. For example, programs such as R2/RIOS can help ISRI members achieve and maintain environmental compliance. In the wood pallet industry, proposed legislation in New Jersey threatened the use of wood pallets as tertiary packaging for the shipment of food products and required active lobbying by an association and its members to derail this ill-conceived idea. Whether the issue is the proposed ban on recycled wood in boiler pellets or off-shore scrap export, businesses continue to face emerging legislative and regulatory challenges and can benefit enormously from trade association lobbying and guidance.

Education and Training 

While some organizations offer formal training certification programs, all typically offer a range of educational sessions for recycling professionals. Some of the official certification programs available include the following:

  • Solid Waste Association of North America (Composting Programs, Construction & Demolition Materials, Recycling Systems)
  • US Composting Council (Compost Facility Operator)
  • Reuse Alliance (Master Reuser® Certificate Program)
  • Building Materials Reuse Association (Deconstruction)


Over the course of networking at trade association gatherings, important business relationships can emerge. For example, in the case of regional companies, it is not unusual for like-minded businesses to exchange opportunities or work collaboratively to provide service to a customer over a larger geographic area. A client may need service in a part of the country where the recycler does not have coverage and can work together with another similar-minded regional provider to deliver coverage to more or all customer locations. This type of synergy can translate not only into opportunities that emerge at an association event but also subsequent referrals and other opportunities that come along months after the meeting has ended.

Exchange Ideas

An important benefit of making connections with peers from other parts of the country or industry suppliers is the opportunity to share best operational practices, experience with new technologies or approaches to marketing.

Make Lifelong Friends

Industry meetings provide the opportunity to make valuable connections, and these can often turn into lifelong friendships.

Build Reputation

Being able to place trade association affiliation on your business card helps promote your professionalism, signaling to trading partners not only your active participation in the development of the industry but also your interest in industry best practices and awareness of market conditions.