Crawford Carpenter, a longtime active participant in the recycling industry, received ISRI’s Lifetime Achievement Award at ISRI2017 for his years of dedication and hard work.

After entering the paperboard packaging industry as an internal auditor in the early 1970s, Crawford eventually became very involved with ISRI after joining The Newark Group. He was instrumental in educating future generations about recycling and helped expand and promote the Recycling Research Foundation Scholarship program. He also played an integral role in the creation of a National Veterans Stipend—an idea sparked by his wife, he points out—to assist veterans in furthering their education.

Since retiring, Crawford has remained active in his community. He recently joined the Contra Costa County, CA community advisory board, where they focus on assisting people of color once they become involved with the criminal justice system. He says that he was drawn to this work after attending a webinar with various stakeholders in the county following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. His State Senator asked citizens to get involved and to provide their input, and Crawford took that message to heart, which led him to reach out to his local supervisor in the county and apply for the board. Crawford says that he loves the work he’s doing and he’s looking forward to the next steps.

For Black History Month, Scrap News recently caught up with Crawford to spotlight all of his achievements and contributions during his distinguished career.

After receiving your Master’s in Business Administration, you interviewed at several companies before accepting a position as an internal auditor with the Container Corporation of America. At the time you accepted the position with CCA, did you envision spending the entirety of your career in the recycling industry?

I started on the paper side as an internal auditor in the corrugated box division. [At the time], it was my first step into the business world & I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t sure I’d spend the rest of my life in the industry, but that’s the way it worked out. Looking back, it was definitely the right decision.

Once you entered the recycling industry, you never left. What made you stick around?

I just loved it. There seemed to be a great deal of opportunity for advancement. For some reason, every day was truly a new day. Your focus could change on a dime & that’s what made it exciting. One moment there was an operations issue, the next there was a sales/procurement issue & the next was just a cup of coffee with the ever so necessary administrative staff.

What’s your fondest memory of your work with ISRI over the years?

I would probably say the fly-ins that we had to meet different congressman [for this, Crawford credits Billy Johnson, ISRI’s chief lobbyist, and the late Mark Reiter. Crawford says that they both did a “fabulous job” of getting to know local, state & federal representatives]. The best one that I remember is that I met a congressman for my district that belonged to the same athletic club that I did. One day while we were at the club, he stopped and asked, “Didn’t you come to my office?” He turned out to be a down-to-earth individual. He’s no longer my congressman due to redistricting, but I continue to support his efforts.

Crawford shared another story about meeting Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, who represents California’s 11th Congressional District, which covers almost all of Contra Costa County, CA.

My grandson, wife & I met Congressman DeSaulnier when he was a State Senator. Our visit led to a mini townhall at my grandson’s school that State Senator DeSaulnier not only attended, but participated in with the kids. Two years ago, Congressman DeSaulnier had a Town Hall & our grandson served as an Honorary Staffer.

You led ISRI’s youth educational outreach and curriculum development through the JASON Project; why was getting future generations involved in recycling so important to you?

My father had a model [that said], “If you can, don’t spend a lot of time with adults. Instead, spend your time with the children, because those are the individuals you can influence.” I followed that path. The children are key. With children, you have an opportunity for change building a better society.

Take me back to the day you learned you were going to receive ISRI’s lifetime achievement award. How did you feel when you actually received the award at ISRI2017?

When I was notified, I was shocked. I was driving, heading to the tennis court, and I received a call from Mark Lewon, [previous chair of ISRI]. When he told me I’d be receiving the award, I said, “You’re kidding! Well, I’ll be darned.”

The day that I received the award, I felt pleased & proud that I was able to represent the PSI Chapter of ISRI. I thought it was notable that someone from that side of ISRI was eligible or in a position to receive the award. Without my PSI brothers and sisters, I probably wouldn’t have been considered for the award. To them, I owe so much!

What advice would you give to the industry to make it more diverse and equitable for this generation and future generations? 

I think it all starts with setting the example and being open-minded. It also goes back to hiring. You can’t have a diverse workforce unless you hire.  Talk is cheap. I remember a saying…it’s nice to articulate, but let’s ensure that we initiate! I believe that those in leadership must insist that the interviewing process is open and open to the multitude of differences that exist in society today.

ISRI’s Lifetime Achievement Award is given annually by ISRI’s Chair to bestow recognition and honor upon an individual(s) in the scrap recycling industry whose name and deeds are synonymous with integrity and the pursuit of excellence, and who has made significant contributions over their lifetime to the scrap recycling industry and/or the association. The 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented during ISRI2021, ISRI’s virtual convention. Register here.