contributed photo

San Juan County recognizes Plastic Free July

During its regular meeting on June 28, San Juan County Council approved a proclamation establishing this month as “Plastic Free July.”

“In my work, recently, with the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, and as well as subsequent meetings with local transition group members, including my fondness for our own local initiative ‘Plastic Free Salish Sea,’ I have learned about a global movement called ‘Plastic Free July,’” Councilmember Christine Minney said. “It is an opportunity to take stock of the prevalence of plastic in our personal world; to begin to modify our choices when possible and to learn about the impact of plastics on our planet and specifically as San Juan Islanders, our beloved marine waters.”

Minney brought the proclamation to the council, who voted unanimously to approve.

“The proclamation recognizes the pressing issues around plastic waste, including the fact that plastics are the most prevalent type of marine debris found in our oceans, as well as being found daily on San Juan County’s shores, with devastating effects on marine life and human health,” a press release from the county stated.

Established in 2011, the campaign allows the Plastic Free Foundation to work toward a world free of plastic waste. The foundation itself began in 2017 and was founded by Australian Rebecca Prince-Ruiz. The campaign has grown to an international phenomenon, winning numerous awards.

“Millions of people across the globe take part every year, with many committing to reducing plastic pollution far beyond the month of July,” the Plastic Free July’s website says.

According to the Plastic Free July website, an estimated 326 million people from 177 countries worldwide participated in the July 2020 campaign.

“San Juan County encourages staff, residents and visitors to reduce plastic consumption by choosing reusable alternatives to single-use plastics, making purchases meaningful by seeking products packaged with biodegradable materials, sourcing food and products locally where possible and learning about what resources exist in San Juan County for recycling and individual waste reduction,” the county press release said.

In the islands, Friends of the San Juans; Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District; the San Juan Islands Conservation District; the San Juan County Marine Resource Committee; and the San Juan County Solid Waste Program have formed a group called Plastic Free Salish Sea.

“As we stand here in the San Juan Islands we get to really appreciate the beauty of the entire ecosystem,” the Plastic Free Salish Sea website states. “But what you can’t see from up here is a crisis brewing under the fragile waters caused by all the plastics that we are using.”

In October 2016, the county council approved a sweeping ban on single-use plastic in the San Juans. Friday Harbor followed suit shortly afterward. In January of this year, a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags began.

Throughout the month, San Juan County’s newly formed San Juan County Environmental Resource Department will share tips and tricks for reducing plastic use on the county’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SanJuanCountyWA.