A Texas entrepreneur is promising Crees millions in profits if they invest in a recycling megaproject he is promoting.
Entrepreneur Walter Childress and Cree leaders were both tight-lipped about details of the plan and how much money Crees may invest from their compensation funds.
We have learned the investment may be anywhere from $2 to $27 million, which is to come from the Board of Compensation and/or the James Bay Eeyou Corporation.
The plan would see recycling centres built in dozens of cities across the U.S. The centres would recycle or compost neatly all waste in city dumps and resell it as fertilizer and other supposedly lucrative products.
Childress has reportedly told Crees there is big money to be made: $400 million a month in revenues, according to one source.
While Cree officials appear to believe the plan is worth serious attention, executives of large U.S. waste-management companies contacted by The Nation aren’t so sure.
“My daddy told me, ‘When something looks too good to be true, it probably is,’” said Joe Noorlag, marketing general manager for Laidlaw Inc. in Houston. Asked if the plan could work, Noorlag said, “No,” and advised Crees to hold on to their money.
“I’m telling you, it’s like spinning trash into gold. In the Middle Ages, lots of people went around claiming they could turn garbage into gold. They usually hung those guys with the witches.”
Pete Block, a spokesman for Brauning Ferris Industries Inc., said Childress’s plan comes at a bizarre time, since the recycling business has been in a serious slump for a couple of years.
“Recycling hit a peak in 1995 and in 1996 it fell out of bed,” said Block. “Composting is about as sexy as a Yellow Cab and not quite as rewarding. It needs big customers and they’re hard to find.”
Asked whether Childress’s plan could work, Block replied, “Frankly, I’m a little bit surprised. I’d say that’s awfully ambitious.”
Childress, contacted in Houston, refused to answer questions about his plan, saying he had agreed to let Cree leaders answer any questions. “We agreed that until we have more of the pieces sullied up it’s just at the discussion stage at this point. There’s nothing real secretive about it. It’s just a matter of protocol, I believe,” said Childress, who identified himself as a Muskogean Creek from Oklahoma.
We were not able to contact Chief Billy Diamond, who is promoting the plan, or Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come for this article. Bill Grodinsky, corporate secretary for the Cree Regional Authority, confirmed that Cree leaders met with Childress to hear proposals in February.
“I think people around the table found it interesting,” Grodinsky said. “It’s an intriguing approach.” He refused to reveal details of the plan, saying that some aspects are “trade secrets.”
Grodinsky would not put a dollar amount on the possible Cree investment, but emphasized that no commitment to invest will be made without discussion before the full boards of the Board of Compensation and Eeyou Corporation. He said an independent review of the project is now being done by accountants Price Waterhouse to see if it’s feasible.