Profiles in Paper: Vic Rice
Q & A Interview with VIC RICE
Q: When and how did you enter the recycling industry?
A: In 1976, after I played a couple years in the ski industry, Consolidated Fibers hired Bill Gleason, an international marketing expert from Crown Zellerbach, who in turn hired me to build an international division for its approximately 30 recycling plants. In 1984 Bill and I left CFI and co-founded Pacific Forest Resources to focus on exports of scrap paper and some pulp and packaging materials. CellMark acquired our company in 1987. After running the company’s recycling division for more than 30 years, I’m now Executive Deputy Chairman of CellMark’s global company, which has seven operating divisions (pulp, paper, packaging, recycling, chemicals, metals, and basic chemicals). Overall, CellMark—which is based in Gothenburg, Sweden—has a network of 70 offices in 30 countries, with approximately 750 employees.
Q: What was it about the industry that prompted you to build a career in it?
A: It wasn’t so much the recycling industry that I planned as my career but rather that the job offer I received included international travel in a growth space that was in its infancy as far as becoming a globally traded commodity. The fact that the industry was both environmental and ecological just became icing on the cake.
Q: What have been your most rewarding professional achievements? Personal achievements?
A: It’s difficult to separate the professional from the personal as they are so intertwined. I have great satisfaction in surrounding myself with a terrific team of entrepreneurs who work hard and play hard and make me look better than I am. I’ve been in this business 42 years now, and CellMark will turn 35 next year. Despite ever-present challenges, I strongly believe that the recycling industry and CellMark are well-positioned to shine for decades to come.
Q: What are you passionate about?
A: Obviously family, friends, and good health are at the top of the list. Having traveled extensively in the United States, plus 91 countries, I see extensive needs—both human and environmental—everywhere I go. Although it would be presumptuous to think I can change the world, it doesn’t hurt to start with a smile, a handshake, and the willingness to engage and listen when meeting new people. No matter where you go, people are passionate about the same things: family, friends, and good health.
Q: Tell us something about you that would surprise people.
A: I’ve been racing sports cars around the world for almost 30 years, including victories or podium finishes in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, and Dubai. I love fair competition, working in a team sport, and sharing the success and disappointment that comes with it.
Q: If you could improve anything about yourself, what would it be?
A: Turn back the clock… Realistically, I wish I were better at keeping in touch with so many wonderful people who have been a part of my life thus far. I just don’t know where the time has gone.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: Free time? Now there’s a concept! Now that my motorsports “career” is coming to an end, I’m playing a lot more golf, and I still enjoy cycling, snow skiing, and scuba diving. I also sit on the boards of a couple of nonprofits. Hopefully I’ll have more time for the latter in the coming years.
Q: When and why did your company decide to join ISRI and the PSI Chapter?
A: The companies I’ve been a part of have always participated in ISRI and PSI. I think it’s good to support your trade organizations. You can always learn from others, share best practices, and have some legislative influence where it really counts. It’s like voting. If you don’t like things the way they are, get involved and contribute to constructive change. If you prefer to be passive or silent, then don’t complain about the way things are.
Q: Have you held any leadership positions within PSI?
A: A long time ago I sat on the Standards & Practices Committee, but I haven’t held any chapter leadership office or played a very active role. Many other CellMark employees have been much more involved, however. CellMark encourages its employees to get involved, attend conferences, speak as panelists, and serve where appropriate.
Q: What benefits have you received from your PSI involvement?
A: We’re in contact with like-minded people and—in several cases—that contact has resulted in meaningful business. PSI also has been our legislative advocate and offered support in various areas.
Q: What are the major challenges facing your company and the overall paper recycling industry today?
A: The recycling industry has never been without challenges, and this year has been no exception. I’m a glass-half-full guy, so I’m always looking for the silver lining. Clearly from an environmental perspective, scrap paper exports to China needed a long-overdue quality “reboot,” and the Chinese government has been moving in this direction for many years now. While you can object to the speed and unilateral decisions its government has taken, you can’t criticize its motives. This has come at great financial cost to the Chinese economy and, specifically, to its papermaking sector. When one door closes, another one opens, and that’s certainly been the case this year, with unprecedented volumes moving to other markets.