contributed photo

Are you ready to reduce single-use plastic in San Juan County?

  • Thu Mar 18th, 2021 4:38pm
  • Life

Correction:The San Juan County Marine Resources Committee was inadvertently omitted from the list of partners collaborating on the Plastic Free Salish Sea Initiative. In fact, PFSS was developed and led by the Marine Resources Committee, and specifically the energy behind the campaign is MRC Vice-Chair Karin Roemers-Kleven.

Secondly, only one water bottle refill station at the Lopez Village Park will be installed from the grant received by Plastics Free Salish Sea. The other Lopez sites already have water fountains, and new refill stations are NOT due to be installed there. The only exceptions are the bottle filling stations at all the county parks. Karlene at the SJC Parks Department confirmed that they did receive a grant for water bottle filling fountains. The one on Orcas is installed and operational (may not be included in the grant funds, but is part of this project), the one on San Juan at the county park is close to operational and the one on Lopez will be installed later this year after some other work which needs to be done is completed.

Finally, the trash mermaid has found a new home, so she is not permanently displayed on site at the Lopez Dump anymore.

By Ande Finley

Did you know that 8 million metric tons of plastics are released into the ocean every year, which can take up to 450 years to disintegrate? And 50% of the plastic we handle is single-use. Those are alarming statistics, but now there are tangible actions that San Juan County residents can individually and collectively take.

Plastic Free Salish Sea,, a collaborative effort of Friends of the San Juans, San Juan Islands Conservation District, Lopez Solid Waste, San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau, San Juan County Public Works, and the Plastics Action Team of Transition Lopez Island, has been working on various projects and campaigns to bring awareness to the critical problem of plastic trash on our islands and in our waters.

The most recent scheme is the installation of bottle-filling stations throughout the islands to reduce the need for single-use plastic water bottles. On Lopez, Blossom Grocery has had one for years, but additional stations will be installed at Odlin County Park, Lopez Village Park, Lopez Library, and the Lopez Center, with others to follow as this idea catches on. San Juan County Parks Department plans to install stations on all three major islands. To do their part, County consumers can invest immediately in a permanent water bottle and refuse to buy plastic bottles.

Another local campaign is New Deal San Juan Islands, the brainchild of the Madrona Institute in conjunction with a team of islanders working across disciplines to assemble policy goals and write ordinances in the key areas of climate, plastics, agriculture, housing, and justice. NDSJI’s website,, asks “What if our County government could be a national model of climate action, environmental protection, justice and equity?” The website has been designed to recommend policies to our County Council to support substantive change in each of these arenas as a participatory, collaborative, and open-ended work-in-progress.

In the section on plastics, the NDSJI website states, “It is no longer enough to simply eliminate or reuse single-use plastic grocery bags, we must eliminate a majority of single-use plastics.” Potential actions around this issue include: eliminating purchase of single-use plastics and installing more recycling bins in all County buildings by 2022, prohibiting certain single-use plastic food service products for takeout, and requiring reusable products for on-premises dining. County residents are strongly encouraged to share their vision for a New Deal and advocate for the adoption of local ordinances that will have permanent, wide-ranging effects.

On a state-wide level, the legislature is deliberating SB 5022/HB 1118, a bill that will require higher recycled content for beverage containers, plastic trash bags, and jugs/bottles, restrict the sale of certain expanded styrofoam products, and allow food service businesses to provide plastic utensils, straws, beverage cup lids, and condiment packages only upon customers’ request. This legislation has passed the State Senate and is currently in committee in the House. Contact our State Representatives, Debra Lekanoff,, and Alex Ramel,, to urge them to support this bill when it comes to a vote.

March 22nd is internationally known as World Water Day, first celebrated in 1993 to highlight global reliance on water and the importance of its protection. In 2016, Transition Lopez Island sponsored a Potluck with a Purpose at the Lopez Community Center to commemorate this day. Committee members Liz Lafferty, Kim Foley, Erin Bernardi, and Marisa James created a unique program to expose participants to the various sad realities of limited access to water on our planet and to discuss the challenges of dependence on our fragile island aquifers. Now, five years later as the next World Water Day approaches, we are learning how much the plastics we are using and discarding are impacting our precious marine ecosystem. We have to commit ourselves to making real progress on a county level in this critical area.

Are we ready as a community to take the World Water Day pledge to expand our “R’s” — Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle the different types of plastics around our homes, and add refuse to purchase more single-use plastic, and replace plastic with alternatives?

And what do you do with all that trash retrieved from the beaches? Make art of course! On permanent display at the Lopez dump, “Mermaid” in this photo was made by community members after the 2018 Great Islands Cleanup.

For more info, and to join forces with other concerned citizens, contact the Plastics Action Team at