Plastic Free Salish Sea

Plastic Free Salish Sea

Let's do our part to protect the Salish Sea.

The San Juan MRC and our community partners have launched our Plastic Free Salish Sea initiative. This initiative is an education and awareness-building campaign aimed at changing citizen behavior and the culture of plastics use.

Our vision is to eliminate single-use plastics in San Juan County and clean up our waters.

Plastic pollution in the world’s oceans is having a devastating effect on marine life and human health. Plastic debris is found daily on San Juan County’s shorelines. Microplastics are particularly worrying given that they are found in fish and shellfish and even in sea salt, so in turn also finding it’s way into our diets. Our use of plastic, particularly single-use, must change. The goal of this website is to provide a resource for all solid waste, recycling, waste reduction, and zero waste resources, events, and organizations in San Juan County.

We invite to explore the community-based resources website we have created to learn about what we are doing and how you can reduce your reliance on plastics. We have easy to use toolkits, an events page for information on things to get involved in, and a dedicated resources page with links and infographics for you to access and use.

Don't forget to check out the video below created by MRC member Carl Davis.  

Removing Derelict Fishing Gear Helps The Salish Sea

Our partners at the NW Straits Foundation have been working hard to identify and remove derelict fishing gear and crab traps. Recently, the NW Straits removed 104 derelict pots from Leo Reef off Lopez Island. What a great load of debris removed from local waterways! 


Throughout the Salish Sea, communities have been working hard to prevent and reduce the use of single-use plastics and educate communities about sustainable alternatives. Our story of preventing plastic use in the Salish Sea is actually part of the larger narrative of the Earth’s plastic crisis. In the words of activist Shibu K. Nahir,

“Look at our globe: it’s a water world… So if you imagine that we are in a womb filled with water, whatever I do here is going to affect every single life form in this earth… We need to bring in that kind of a spirit of unity across boundaries, because these toxins do not understand political boundaries.”

In March 2019 Washington State passed a reusable bag bill, which will ban single-use plastic bags across the state, following the lead of many local communities, including San Juan County. That was a big step in the right direction and gives businesses the motivation to look for alternative supplies.

Then COVID 19 happened. In a matter of days grocery stores around the country put up signs that re-usable bags were not allowed, and coffee shops refused to refill personal mugs. But the idea that “plastic bags are safer” runs in direct contradiction to the best available science. Earlier this month the New England Journal of Medicine found that the virus that causes COVID19 persists on plastic 300% as long as it does on paper! 72 hours! Plastic showed the longest survival time of all materials the scientists tested. Stainless steel, cardboard, copper and the air itself were all far less hospitable than plastic!  Unfortunately, special interests have capitalized on peoples’ fears to advance the use of plastic bags and delay implementation of plastic bag bans. Fortunately, the countries of Italy, Indonesia, and the Netherlands found no reason to ban the use of reusable bags.

What is a concerned world citizen to do?  REFUSE to use single-use plastics and keep looking for ways that you can REDUCE your dependence on convenient packaging. Check out this nifty infographic with some easy to follow tips to still REFUSE, REDUCE and REUSE in the age of COVID-19.

What can we do as a society and as individuals?

This infographic produced by the Ocean Conservancy concisely explains the issues and captures some of the core things that we must do as a society to address to the issue. These include:

  • Reduce plastic in the waste stream
  • Improve solid waste management
  • Increase capture and reuse


San Juan County Solid Waste Program
Friends of the San Juans
Orcas Recycling Services & Exchange
Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District
Solid Waste Alternatives Program (SWAP)
Conservation District
Youth Conservation Corp

Plastic Free Salish Sea