Our mission at Orcas Recycling Services / The Exchange is to build a zero waste community and mitigate climate crisis through service, education, and stewardship of our waste/resource streams.

But what does “zero waste” actually mean?

Zero Waste is the simple concept of reducing the waste we create and then reusing, recycling and composting most of what we throw away.

So, why zero waste? Why does it matter when we can send our waste to a landfill?

Landfills are imperfect places to send waste. They’re designed to prevent water, oxygen, and sunlight from entering. Therefore, very little of what is buried there breaks down quickly—even materials like plant matter or those marked “biodegradable” or “compostable.”

Burying trash in the ground is a one-way street where we purchase, consume and dispose of materials, and then pay to bury these materials in the ground—never to see them again.

Zero waste is precisely the opposite.

A true zero waste system is cyclical, like nature: Everything we produce, consume and dispose of eventually goes back to feed the larger system at the end of its useful life. It’s a loop rather than a one-way street.

At ORS/The Exchange, both yard waste and glass are zero waste materials – they can be recycled and reused right here on the island.

Need some help moving towards zero waste in your own life? Here are 100 tips to reduce your waste.