Sunday, November 11, 2012

Orcas Dreams 2: What about the Garbage?

"The Exchange", . . . one persons trash is another's treasure.

A number of you have asked me what happens to our garbage here on Orcas.  It's really quite interesting and I hadn't thought about it till we got up here.  After two weeks our bins got full up and I thought, "Oh yeah, nobody will come and get this, we have to deal with it ourself."  It's amazing how much more aware one becomes when they don't have people doing their "dirty" work for them.  

Here on the island, there is no dump.   All trash needs to be put in dumpsters and shipped off the island.  There are hardly any public garbages bins in town, people are encouraged to deal with their trash themselves.  You would think that this would mean that there is trash everywhere, along the roads, at the beaches, not so, you might see some, but this place is sparkling compared to what I see driving along country roads on the mainland.  

San Juan County Solid Waste Disposal has recently started a new service for home pick up, but it hasn't caught on yet.  For the most part, people take their own trash and recycling to the waste area.  In fact, a trip to the "dump" is considered a social event, it's only open Thursday-Sunday and you'll see many familiar faces.  

Getting rid of our trash basically works like this, . . . you pay $5 for up to six trash cans/bags of recycling and $10 for up to 2 cans of garbage.  It's not weighed, there is no person there to help you get your trash in and out of your car, you stop at a little shed, pay your money, back your car right up to the edge of the dumpster and dump dump dump.  I was amazed to see that on any given day there are 4 dumpsters available for dumping, 3 of these were for recycling and one was for trash.  The 3 Rs (Re-duce, Re-Use and Re-cycle) are a way of life here, instilled in the brains of the community and culture.  Before we moved here I thought I was fairly thoughtful about the amount of trash I put out there, but here I am forced to be even more sensitive and I'm realizing that I have a lot to learn.  

Now, onto the more interesting aspect of Orcas Island's waste disposal system.  The Exchange.  What an amazing place!  No city should be without one and yet I have never seen a place quite like it!  You bring your "junk", anything from mop heads, old toys, books, art, furniture, sheets, sinks, doors, . . .you name it.  You either donate it or exchange for something else.  How many times have I tried to sell something on craigslist (for like a year) without any takers, but felt too guilty about throwing it in the trash or simply felt that it deserved more than just being tossed away.  Well, The Exchange will most likely take it and hand it off to some other creative sole.  It might be used as is or turned into some fabulous piece of art or functional object.  If you turn up at The Exchange empty handed, but need something, no fear!  Monetary donations are accepted as well and are an important part in keeping this spot up and running.  I almost wept tears of joy when I saw this place, it is awesome!  

Only pictures can describe, . . . 

Need a bike?  You would think that Critical Mass was coming through!

Or how about a door?

Serafin has had a thing about the Yellow Brick Road lately, at The Exchange, we followed the "White Sink Road".

I'll be curious to see what happens to these around Easter.

Speakers, music and other electronics.

Dishware, lamp shades and kitchen appliances

Clothes!  Everything from adult to children's clothing, costumes and shoes.

The Exchange library

We still haven't pulled our x-mas tree stand out of a box yet, if we can't find it at least we know where to come to get one!


  1. This is absolutely wonderful. I live in a city and it costs $120 per month to dispose of my recycle and garbage. I compost and reuse so I don't even have enough to fill one large can of each in an entire month. This is not only better for the environment and excellent for the people, it is massively cheaper.

  2. Fantastic! Wish every city had this.

  3. This place reminds me of Urban Ore. Also, I totally feel you on, "How many times have I tried to sell something on craigslist (for like a year) without any takers, but felt too guilty about throwing it in the trash or simply felt that it deserved more than just being tossed away." That's why I take so much stuff to Salvation Army. I figure, what they don't use, they'll put in the garbage outside where the homeless can go through it or give things to shelters. Great pics!