Commissioners and now council member policies seem no different now than back in 1991 in addressing solid waste. If we are responsibly to address the three Rs (recycle, reuse, reduce) then we have to accept its cost. It is infinitely cheaper to just open your door, throw your waste into a can and have someone haul it away. Sounds like the way to go. But it is not the way to handle solid waste.
Hauling solid waste (garbage and recycle materials) off an island is expensive. In most communities in the U.S. that cost is paid for by creating a waste disposal district (like school, fire, cemetery and library districts) to finance solid waste infrastructure costs – like one for San Juan Island, Orcas and Lopez. These costs cover a transfer station of sorts and the personnel to operate it and a contract for a carrier to remove waste to an established disposal area. Whether a citizen chooses to haul their waste to such a transfer station or pay someone to do it, the basic facility to accept and remove is paid for by all property owners. Common costs are shared by all districts. On Orcas and Lopez we have been blessed by the efforts of thoughtful and enterprising citizens that have established a non-tax supported facility that siphons off some of this waste stream to be recycled into the community, thereby mitigating haul-off costs. Here on Orcas it is called the Exchange and was founded by George Post. On Lopez it is called the “Take or Leave it” and was started by Neil Hansen.
Self-haulers should not be singled out to carry some of that burden. They are the heroes. In the summer months waste increases substantially. Tourists, summer residents, and renters add to the waste stream. We need the latter to support our business communities, which are an important source of County revenue.
Now I pose to the council: how hard is it to generate a policy to implement the above? Being leaders, it is hard to make the right decision. But that is what you were elected to do. So delay no longer, let’s put this solid waste issue behind us instead of letting it fester for another 20 years.