Bottled Water, Razor Wire Trip Up Arcata Resource Recovery Center

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

10TH & N STREETS –Business is picking up at the newly opened Arcata Resource Recovery Center (ARRC). Word has gotten around that Arcatans no longer need drive to Eureka or McKinleyville to dump their recyclables, and a steady stream of cars are pulling up to the waiting dumpsters full of newspaper, bottles, cans, scrap metal and other materials.

There, employees Juanita Howell and Vincent Bianco jovially assist recycling donors in pitching their items into the correct bin.

But Fortuna-based Eel River Resource Recovery (ERRR) learned last week that doing business in Arcata can be a prickly experience if things aren’t done just so.

ERRR’s first misstep, at least in terms of public relations, was ringing its sprawling yard at 10th and N streets with concertina wire. While already encircled by a fence topped with barbed wire, the extra layer of coiled razor wire gives the place a prison campish look, prompting complaints from neighboring businesses and residents.

“I don’t want to be a bad neighbor but it sure doesn’t look like any vision of the ‘Creamery District’ we have talked about so far,” said one neighbor, alluding to ongoing efforts to upgrade the appearance of the area around the Old Creamery.

The unlovely but needed fence. Photos by KLH | Eye

The unlovely but needed fence. Photos by KLH | Eye

The reason for the extra security is obvious – recycling raiders daily plunder residential bins, helping undermine the financial premise of the curbside recycling program – and would surely love to get their hands on the ARRC’s trashy treasure. Also, areas bordering the ARRC depot are rife with illegal campers. Already, said Howell, the company’s truck has been used as a shelter, with the campers building a fire in the back cargo area.

Regardless of the wire’s effectiveness or its visual shortcomings, it’s probably not legal. Arcata’s Land Use Code section 9.030.30 prohibits use of “razor or concertina wire with a fence or wall.”

Chuck Schager, recycling and resource manager, said he is working with the City to resolve the situation. But he stressed the need to protect the enterprise from depredation. “Obviously, we have things of value, and people are going to go in and take it,” he said.

His preferred outcome is installation of extensive landscaping to hide the wire. That would be quite an undertaking, as the wire-topped fence extends two blocks down N Street past the central Old Creamery area, but Schager says a green screen will work in Arcata as well as it has for the company’s Fortuna’s location.

“You wouldn’t even know it’s there,” Schager said. Google Earth Street View images seem to confirm his claim. Other than the gates, the lushly vegetated 12th Street Fortuna roadside largely obscures views of the fence, not to mention an industrial-looking recycling yard.

“We try to work with all the cities and we will do the same for Arcata,” Schager said. Still, he noted that the lunar-like surface of N Street doesn’t set a very high aesthetic standard. “I don’t see where the barbed wire is any worse than the potholes,” he said. “You’ve already got visual problems.”

David Loya, deputy director of Community Development, confirmed that discussions are underway. “We’re in conversation with them right now to get it cleared out,” he said. But he couldn’t predict the outcome. “We’ll go through a process,” Loya said.

‘Unclear on the concept’

As neighbors stewed over the razor-wired fence, a friendly gesture by the company misfired and outraged avid recyclers. That was the company’s offering of tiny plastic bottles of water to those who visit the 10th Street facility.

“This is SO wrong,” wrote Facebook user Susan Anderson, whose husband returned from the center with one of the disposable/recyclable mini-water bottles, labeled with the company’s name and depicting a cloudless Earth swaddled in green recycling arrows. The post was picked up by the Lost Coast Outpost news website, which titled it, “Unclear on the Concept.”

Commenters saw a contradiction in the company ignoring the first two tenets of the reduce-reuse-recycle waste reduction paradigm.

The controversial water bottles.

The controversial water bottles.

“Mini-bottles are great for those who couldn’t care less about posterity,” said commenter Joel Mielke.

“This is a good lesson folks,” commented Rita Jacinto. “For-profit companies cashing in on the green industry without having any ‘green’ consciousness at all. The Community Recycling Center may have had its problems, but you always knew what they stood for.”

Schager said he was merely providing aid to the thirsty. “We thought that after someone’s out there sorting their recycling, a refreshing drink of water would be a nice gesture,” he said, not seeing what all the fuss was about. “It’s amazing, you try to think of something new and they go, ‘What?’”

The company was still giving out the refreshing waters last week, but may not continue the offering.

“Sometimes you learn from the curve,” Schager said. “We’ll have to try something else.”

Strictly confidential

Meanwhile. the company is offering a shredding service for confidential documents. For 30 cents per pound, users may deposit documents in a locked bin at the 10th Street facility. The material is taken to Fortuna for shredding and baling.

Certification of secure disposal is available, and Schager said the service is utilized with confidence by “lots of confidential facilities,” including the county Probation Department.


Schager pledged to synchronize the ARRC with Arcata’s sensibilities. “We really want to work with the community and make this work,” he said. “We want to be a facility that takes care of their needs in an ecological manner. We’ll learn from it and move on.”


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