Submitted by Karin Roemers-Kleven
San Juan County Marine Resource Committee Vice-Chair
Last weekend San Juan County residents wrapped up its week-long Great Island Clean Up. Volunteers from San Juan, Lopez, Shaw and Orcas Islands collected trash from beaches and roadways to help keep the islands beautiful. The GICU was organized by a collective of groups across the islands including the County’s Solid Waste Program, Lopez Exchange and Friends of the San Juans. Members from the SJC Marine Resource Committee (and its subcommittee Plastic Free Salish Sea) participated in the event along with many other islanders and their children.
The San Juan Islands are regarded as the jewel of the Northwest. Long heralded by scientists as the most pristine ecosystem, our county’s marine environment covers 408 miles of shoreline and 447 square miles of the County (72%) is water.
So what did we learn from this effort? We learned that some garbage is local.
A water balloon party on South Beach on San Juan Island left pieces of shattered rubber against the rocks.
A plastic bag from a local store flies out of the back of someone’s truck and wraps itself around twigs along the road. It then disintegrates slowly in the sun and parts are blown in a nearby ditch where during a rainstorm it gets carried out to the sea with the same effect on wildlife as the balloons.
We also learned that some garbage is regional. Bottle caps, gun wads, a Starbucks Coffee cup, a yacht brokerage sign from Seattle and a cork from a BC winery probably all entered the water outside of our county and drifted on the southern winds or raging currents towards us.