The Exchange: Charting the course ahead for the Orcas Island Transfer Station | Guest column

By Mark DeTray

The Exchange will be assuming responsibility for managing the Orcas Island Transfer Station in its entirety; this change from County to community-based management of the OITS is scheduled to take place by March 31. In order to provide users of the Orcas transfer station with a sense of what to expect in the months ahead, we would like to compare and contrast current and future services and fees and outline the changes that are core to our management plan.

Transport and disposal

Currently, the County is disposing of both garbage and recyclables through Waste Management Inc. The garbage is trucked by Cimarron Trucking to a rail yard in Seattle in intermodal containers, transferred to railcar and shipped to WM Inc.’s Columbia Ridge Landfill in Arlington, Oregon. The commingled recyclables are trucked by Cimarron Trucking to WM Inc.’s material recovery facility in Woodinville. The County is currently paying $1,108.81 per load for trucking to Seattle and Woodinville, not including ferry charges.


In contrast to the current system, The Exchange will be hiring Orcas Island Freight Lines to transport the garbage in intermodal containers from the OITS to Allied Waste Services’ rail yard in Burlington, located adjacent to the Skagit County Transfer Station, where they will be transferred to railcar and shipped to Allied Waste’s Roosevelt Regional Landfill in Klickitat County. Commingled recyclables will be trucked to Tri-County Recycling, also located adjacent to the Skagit County Transfer Station, where they will be sorted and sold back into the material-feedstock market. These changes in material destinations are significant factors in enabling The Exchange to reduce rates relative to the County for the following reasons:

  1. At $650 and $720 per load for garbage and commingled recyclables respectively (not including ferry charges), trucking to and from Burlington is significantly less costly and logistically more practical – particularly due to the ferry factor – than to and from Seattle and Woodinville;

  2. Tri-County Recycling, which currently takes Friday Harbor’s commingled recyclables, has agreed to accept these materials from the OITS at little to no cost (compared to $71.19 / ton proposed by WM Inc.). The upshot is we’ll save more than $100,000 per year on the cost of forwarding commingled recyclables alone.


The Exchange will continue to offer the current range of services provided by the County. As now, self-haulers will have the option of disposing commingled recyclables and household garbage at the Z-Wall or, if they wish, in the case of garbage, by going over the scale to the tipping floor. Commingled recyclables will cost $2 / can (roughly equivalent to $100 / ton) and garbage will cost $7 / can (roughly equivalent to $350 / ton) at the Z-Wall. In contrast, disposal of garbage at the tipping floor will cost self-haulers $300 / ton (down from $373.75 / ton currently charged by the county).

The Orcas transfer station will continue to provide tipping services to San Juan Sanitation for garbage and commingled recyclables as well. We have had a number of meetings with SJS representatives, all with positive outcomes, and are building a collaborative working relationship. The fees paid by SJS will be $154 / ton and $90 / ton for garbage and commingled recyclables respectively. Due to economies of scale, even at these discounted rates, SJS’ presence in the mix significantly reduces the cost to the self-hauler. Furthermore, flow-control – the policy that allows the County to direct the franchise hauler to tip at a specific location – will come to an end when the operation is handed over to The Exchange; as such, if our rates for SJS were higher, they would be compelled to tip at the Skagit Transfer Station on the mainland rather than at the Orcas transfer station. San Juan Sanitation will be utilizing the Orcas transfer station for tipping all of the curbside garbage and commingled recyclables from Orcas, unincorporated San Juan Island, and possibly Shaw and Lopez Islands as well.

Moving forward, in addition to accepting commingled recyclables, we plan to add the option of source-separated recycling at the Z-Wall. This will allow us to collect recyclables as a commodity and to sell them directly to recycling enterprises. This will also allow us to begin separating glass – which commands little to no market value and constitutes up to 37 percent of recyclables by weight – from the recyclables, thereby reducing the cost of trucking materials off of the island. We will be researching glass crushing systems and exploring / developing local markets for crushed glass during the course of 2013. With the direct market value of source-separated recyclables, we anticipate offering disposal of source-separated recycling for free.

In addition to adding the option of source-separated recycling in 2014, we plan to provide a collection point for compostables (food and yard waste) at the transfer station. Compostables can constitute in excess of 20 percent of garbage by weight; hence, by keeping these materials out of the waste stream we will be able to reduce the cost of transport and disposal while simultaneously recapturing these resources for reprocessing into soil amendments here on Orcas.

Finally, we will also be endeavoring to increase the amount of construction debris that we are keeping out of the landfill. This will involve a cooperative effort with homeowners and contractors in keeping materials that we can reuse here on Orcas separate from other debris. We anticipate implementing this program in 2014 as well.


The Exchange anticipates having a paid staff of 6 -7 people (total anticipated jobs of approximately 10 include subcontractors for trucking and financial service providers). Three employees will be dedicated to reuse; one will be a booth operator at the Z-Wall; one will be a booth operator for the tipping floor; and one employee – the Executive Director – will provide site coordination, operations management and administrative functions. We are currently exploring options for backhoe services and personnel, including subcontracting with a neighboring business. In the event that we hire an equipment operator, s/he would be the 7th employee. All available positions will be posted in the local media in the next month or two.

As regards personnel, it is worth noting that the two County employees we’d hoped to bring on staff have opted to stay with the County and will be joining the Roads Crew. In the interim, they are sharing their experience with us, providing invaluable input and insights for improving the safety and overall functionality of the facility.

Capital improvement projects

The Exchange will be implementing a number of infrastructural changes at the Orcas transfer station. While the specifics are still being worked out, the proposed projects include:

  1. Additional parking – more space for parking will be created by relocating trailer storage to the west side of (behind) the tipping floor building.

  2. Relocation of vehicle scale -- the vehicle scale will be moved to the road leading directly to the tipping floor, thereby eliminating the bottleneck created by its current position.

  3. Additional vehicle scale – a second vehicle scale will be installed on the road to the tipping floor building, such that one scale will serve incoming traffic and the other will serve outgoing traffic.

  4. An additional Z-Wall – a second Z-Wall is planned for installation adjacent to the existing tipping floor building in order to better accommodate commingled recyclables.

  5. Improved traffic flow -- lanes will be added and widened to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic and minimize back-ups.

Any and all service and infrastructural changes will be detailed and communicated to all users of the transfer station well in advance of implementation. Once we are up and running later this winter, we anticipate issuing updates in the local media at least once a month and holding a community forum at the Fire Hall once per month in order to provide the opportunity for open discussion and community input on all matters pertaining to transfer station services, infrastructure and operations.







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