Changing the way we consume | Editorial

China’s import ban of many recyclables including plastics, mixed paper, and metal will change how we reuse consumed goods on San Juan Island.

We think that’s a good thing.

Islanders will no longer be able to dump large containers of questionable items, which many of us have been guilty of doing. I’ve thought, “This pizza box seems pretty clean, I’m sure they’ll figure it out at the recycling center.”

It’s better to be safe than sorry; actually that is just not true. When we send contaminated items to recycling centers it can contaminate other items that could be recycled. Dirty recycling can turn a whole batch of reusable items into garbage. Contaminated items, like used diapers, are one of the reasons China is saying no to our trash.

So what is the good news?

Clean, source-separated recyclables are accepted at the San Juan Island Transfer Station, including aluminum cans, tin cans, mixed paper, clean cardboard, metal and wood. The key word in this sentence is source-separated, meaning you have to actually make contact with all your items to ensure they go in the right bin. Having that tactile relationship with recyclables may help islanders to inspect the item for cleanliness and make sure it is in suitable condition.

The ban on importing waste may also help us to be better consumers and to cut down on our garbage.

Times are changing, and we need to make sure those changes are positive.

We want to remind islanders that the following stations have no changes to recycling practices:

San Juan Sanitation (Curbside Collection). No change, clean commingled recyclables are collected curbside along with garbage. Visit or call 360-376-4709 for updates.

Orcas Island Transfer Station. No change, clean commingled recyclables are accepted along with garbage. Visit or call 360-376-4089 for updates.

Lopez Island Solid Waste. No change, clean source-separated recyclables are accepted along with garbage and reusables. Visit or call 360-468-2555 for updates.

For more information about the San Juan Island Transfer Station, visit