SeaDoc Society and Exchange join forces to reduce single-use beverage containers

Orcas Recycling Services/The Exchange and The SeaDoc Society, both Orcas based nonprofits, are teaming up to put a spotlight on the negative environmental impacts of single-use beverage containers by launching a contest — the 2017 Refuse-To-Use Water Bottle and Coffee Cup Challenge.

Now that you’ve broken your new year’s resolutions, we have another for you! Orcas residents willing to do their best to forgo single-use containers in favor of reusable water bottles and coffee cups for all of 2017 stand to win prizes from both organizations.

“It started out when I saw SeaDoc’s January newsletter,” says ORS/Exchange Executive Director Pete Moe. “Joe Gaydos, SeaDoc’s Science Director, posted a picture of his favorite reusable beverage containers and challenged himself to go all year without using any single-use containers—and not to lose his reusable containers in the process. We immediately wanted in on the action!”

That same day, Joe and Pete roughed out the details of an island-wide challenge in the bleachers during a Vikings high school basketball game.

The challenge has two parts: 1. You commit not to use single-use beverage containers all year, and 2. You commit not to lose your favorite reusable containers all year. Challenge your friends, post it on Facebook, and you can win prizes from both organizations.

Nationally, recycling rates for plastic water bottles are between 23 percent and 38 percent, depending on who you ask (anti-plastic activists or the plastic industry, respectively).

While they may argue the percentage that are recycled, neither side argues that in this country we use an astonishing 50 billion plastic bottles annually, or 1.3 billion pounds of plastic. Even at a 38 percent recycling rate, that’s 8.6 million pounds of plastic going into landfills – or worse.

“The Refuse-To-Use Challenge is all in fun, but there is a serious point behind it,” says Gaydos. “Most people don’t see it, but there is a lot of plastic in the ocean – from large bottles to microplastics in zooplankton. Reducing usage of single-use plastic bottles and coffee lids on Orcas Island isn’t going to fix this, but it’s one heck of a good start in the right direction.”

“From the perspective of the Exchange, we have a zero-waste mission, and part of that is education. We want people really to think twice before they go to Costco and load up the flats of bottled water,” says Moe. “That’s kind of nuts, actually. We have fantastic drinking water here on Orcas.”

Single-use coffee cups, while usually made of paper, are not much better: “Once a paper coffee cup is used, it is no longer recyclable,” explains Moe. “The coffee residue itself contaminates the paper to a point beyond recyclability,” he explains. In a landfill, paper cups decompose and create methane, one of the worst greenhouse gasses.

“People are an integral part of the Salish Sea ecosystem. Widespread public education is needed to help citizens understand how a healthy ecosystem free of plastics supports their own physical, mental, and economic well-being,” says Markus Naugle, regional director at SeaDoc.

To participate, be sure to get the details from either or The deadline to sign up, and post your picture to Facebook, is March 1.