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BIR Amsterdam Convention - General Assembly: Susie Burrage OBE “smashes the glass ceiling” to become BIR’s first female President

  • 26 May 2023

On the occasion of its 75th anniversary, BIR broke new ground during its General Assembly in Amsterdam on May 23 by electing Susie Burrage OBE as its 23rd President - the first woman to be appointed to the highest office within the world recycling federation. She succeeds Tom Bird who had completed his four-year term in office.

Managing Director of UK-based Recycled Products Ltd and made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in King Charles III’s inaugural New Year Honours in recognition of her services to recycling and to the environment, Ms Burrage brings a wealth of supremely relevant experience to her new role: she is President of both the British Metals Recycling Association and the European Non-Ferrous Metal Trade and Recycling Branch of the European Recycling Industries’ Confederation (EuRIC), as well as an Ambassador for the Global Recycling Foundation.

In her acceptance speech, she described her appointment as BIR President as “a great honour”. One of her key aims, she said, was to “harness the enthusiasm of youth” by increasing the presence of young traders and their involvement in BIR structures and governance. To which she added: “And unsurprisingly, after smashing the glass ceiling today, I will be looking to encourage more, talented women to participate and be members of committees.”

Other goals outlined by Ms Burrage included building BIR membership, expanding its geographical footprint, improving benefits to members and continuing efforts to produce facts and data to support joint advocacy and communications. She also signalled her intention to strengthen some of BIR’s Divisions and Committees, particularly those covering paper, textiles and plastics.

In another key change, Dhawal Shah of India-based Metco Ventures LLP was elected Treasurer of the world recycling organization in succession to Andy Wahl of TAV Holdings Inc. in the USA who, alongside Mr Bird, received praise for his service to BIR during a challenging period. Indeed, Mr Bird had earlier acknowledged some of the difficulties encountered and overcome during a time in office whose early stages had been dominated by the COVID pandemic. “So it is nice to go out on a bit of a high,” he said, “with a record Convention attendance, record membership and a 75th anniversary celebration.”

Indeed, the number of participants at the Amsterdam Convention exceeded 1500, drawn from 65 countries and over 800 companies. BIR membership, meanwhile, is nearing the 1000 mark following the ratification of 216 new members in a single year. “The challenges of COVID and of conflicts around the world appear to have created an even greater need to connect as an industry,” stated Mr Bird.

The final standing ovation at this year’s General Assembly was reserved for Ross Bartley ahead of his imminent retirement from BIR after 27 years as its Trade & Environment Director. In offering Mr Bartley “a heartfelt thank-you” for his immense, broad-ranging advocacy work on behalf of the recycling industry, Mr Bird concluded: “He’s done an outstanding job - he really has.”  

Having described how existing interests had drawn him to apply for this role within BIR all those years earlier, Mr Bartley added: “It was really where I wanted to be. It has been a fantastic life; I’ve really enjoyed it and now I leave the stage.”

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