Burning yard debris adds carbon monoxide to the environment and directly contributing to climate change along with being hazardous to the health of humans. There is an alternative to burning yard waste, however. It can be taken to Orcas Recycling Services.
“We decided a couple of years ago that it was crazy to have people pay to put green waste … in the garbage and truck it to the landfill 400 miles away. That just makes no sense at all,” ORS Executive Director Pete Moe said. “So, one of the first things we did when we took over a few years ago [was create] the green waste program.”
ORS will take green waste, garbage and noxious-weed free, store it and grind it into mulch for $100 per ton. That’s ⅓ the cost charged for garbage.
“A lot of the stuff we’ve got now has composted really nicely. It’s really good stuff,” Moe said. “We’ve got this product for sale. … This is the first, real full-circle product that we’ve come up with. We’re taking local stuff that used to go into a landfill and we’re making a product out of it that can be resold into the community.”
The green waste disposal project hasn’t been advertised much, Moe said, so the community hasn’t really taken advantage of it yet. He said he hopes to get the word out and have more people take advantage of both disposing of their yard waste and purchasing locally sourced mulch.
According to the Washington Department of Ecology, particle pollution from burning yard waste can travel long distances via the wind or in water. Over time, these particles can cause acidic streams, alter the nutrient balance in the oceans and rivers, cause soil nutrient deficiencies, damage forests and crops and change the diversity of an ecosystem.
Burning yard waste is equally hazardous to the health of the human body. The particles in yard waste smoke can cause asthma attacks, bronchitis, respiratory infections, chronic obstructive lung disease and lung cancer as well as irregular heartbeats, heart attacks, cardiovascular disease and strokes, according to the department of ecology. The department equates smoke from outdoor burning to that of cigarettes.
“It’s one of the many programs that we’re proud of and hopefully the first of many programs to come like that,” Moe said.
Another project Moe said he’d like to bring to ORS is glass-crushing for use in gardens or as fill. A goal of the facility is to have recycling separated when it comes in so that ORS can use a bailer – which it has not yet purchased – to prepare recyclables for being shipped off the island, resulting in a discount both for ORS and the public.
Since reopening on the day after Thanksgiving, ORS has been busy receiving, cleaning and selling the community’s used wares, clothes and toys. Appointments to drop off items for The Exchange were filled all of December and most of January, but now drop-off times are becoming more open while product still cycles through.
“We were overwhelmed with customers on our opening day—November 24th was the biggest sales day in the history of The Exchange,” Moe said. “We are so pleased that the reservation system that we used to bring in donations really worked. We expected a tsunami, but the system worked and we managed it all very well.”
The Exchange, located on Orcas Road at the recycling and transfer station, is open Thursday-Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can schedule your drop-off and find prices for other ORS services at exchangeorcas.org.