“If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted then it should be restricted, redesigned, or removed from production.”

Pete Seeger

Garbage. That’s what we want to get rid of. Zero waste is the goal of The Exchange, and we will continue to work toward that goal. But for the time being, we do need to manage some garbage.

What is garbage? It’s easier to say what it is not. Here’s what is NOT garbage:

• Mixed or co-mingled” recyclables are not garbage; here’s a list: Recycling List 4-24-24

• And here is what is garbage.

• Household Hazardous Waste is not garbage, here’s a primer.

• Food waste is garbage. But if you’re not composting food waste at home you are missing out on a lot of productive fun. Get started here.

Try as we might, lots of stuff still goes into the garbage bin. Do you know what happens next?

  1. First, you bring your garbage to us, or if you have pick-up service, your garbage hauler brings it to us at the Transfer Station.
  2. We push all the garbage into 48-foot long containers that hold up to 24 tons. We cover the trailers with a heavy tarp, and set it out in the yard for pick-up.
  3. Our friends at Orcas Freight then pick up these garbage containers, and take them to the mainland on the ferry.
  4. Orcas Freight drives them to a rail yard in Burlington, just off highway 20, on Farm To Market road.
  5. Full containers are lifted off the truck trailer, and set on flat rail cars. At this point they become the property of Allied Waste/Republic Services, one of the biggest garbage companies in the Country. Allied/Republic then transports the garbage over the mountains to the tiny place called Roosevelt, in eastern Washington. A huge landfill, about a mile from the Columbia River, is the final resting place for your garbage. 350 miles from Orcas.

We pay the highest rates in the state to get rid of our garbage. When you think about the amount of money and energy consumed getting rid of our trash, you can understand why.

The fact that tons of that garbage is actually reusable and never should leave the island makes this pretty absurd. And that’s why we are here doing what we can to promote a Zero Waste Future for Orcas Island!