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BRIEF: Tensions rise at neighborhood meeting with ABC Recycling

The informational presentation at Squalicum Boathouse for the Marine

A crowd exceeding Squalicum Boathouse’s capacity of 100 guests was spilling out of each of its doors in lines, listening in on ABC Recycling’s neighborhood meeting on Dec. 5, 2023. Some members of the crowd came to listen to the presentation set up by the company behind the proposed metal shredder, but most came to shout and disrupt.

“There have been some folks who have shared information that's not accurate and helps stir up people's emotions about our facility. The Save the Waterfront folks have been pretty clear, they want to run us out of town,” said ABC Recycling Community Relations Manager Riley Sweeney.

Much of the crowd that surrounded Squalicum Boathouse were attendees carrying Save the Waterfront’s “Don’t Shred on Bellingham” signs. Save the Waterfront is a community organization raising money to oppose ABC Recycling’s metal pile and its proposed metal shredder. 

Sweeney was concerned that some attendees didn’t get an opportunity to thoroughly learn about the proposed metal shredder as a result of the disruptions.

“We don’t want you here!” audience members shouted.

Founder of From a Child’s Point of View, an arts education nonprofit based in Bellingham, Lisa Citron attended the meeting and said she was also disappointed by the attendees' behavior, but she wasn’t pleased with ABC Recycling either. 

“I felt that both sides were utterly unprepared for the meeting,” Citron said.

Between the crowd’s constant disruptions and what Citron called indefinite language and a lack of data from ABC Recycling, she felt that the night was a lost opportunity to learn what was being proposed. 

“I heard a marketing piece. I didn't see data or evidence,” Citron said. 

Citron said the presenters relied too much on regulations and standards that were set long ago without questioning whether those regulations make sense today. For instance, she was concerned about ABC Recycling’s use of Bennet Drive and State Street as they transport processed metals, both of which are part of the federal truck route. 

Concerns about the trucks’ impact on Bellingham’s roads were frequently voiced by the meeting attendees at Squalicum Boathouse. 

“The concerns that people share are not new. They're worried about emissions, they're worried about truck traffic, they're worried about fires and they're worried about noise. We spoke to each of those issues last night as best we could. And we'll continue to be addressing those,” Sweeney said.

Citron said she plans to write a letter to the commissioner for the Port of Bellingham proposing that they hold a formal debate on this issue where both sides are prepared to argue their positions. 

Sweeney said ABC Recycling is still discussing internally whether they will hold another neighborhood meeting, but that it would certainly be in a larger venue. In the meantime, they will begin the permitting process.

“Permitting has some public meetings as part of that process too, so this will not be the last chance for people to share their thoughts on our proposed shredding facility,” Sweeney said.

Hayden Knoedler

Hayden Knoedler (he/him) is a city news reporter for The Front this quarter. He is a third-year student at Western working to complete a minor in News/Editorial journalism to accommodate his Creative Writing major. In his free time, he enjoys taking photos and playing video games. You can reach him at 

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