You can feel good about landscape materials from The Exchange
Orcas Recycling Services/The Exchange’s mission is zero waste. Nothing embodies this philosophy better than what they do with two very different materials: yard waste and glass. Both materials, waste materials that were once shipped off the island, sometimes hundreds of miles away, are now preserved on Orcas and turned into useful, high-quality landscape materials.
“Turning a waste stream into a usable product that can stay on the island is the holy grail for us,” says ORS/Exchange Board Chairman Jim “Duff” Duffield. “The savings for everyone in dollars and carbon footprint are huge.”
When the Exchange took over the Orcas transfer station in 2013, green waste went into the trash and was shipped 400 miles to landfill. Shortly after taking office, that began to change.
For several years, ORS/The Exchange has collected green waste from the public at a reduced rate and ground it into garden mulch. With a consistency similar to ‘garden bark’, they feel like they’ve perfected the material.
“It was actually kind of a learning curve,” says Pete Moe, director of ORS/Exchange. “Until we found the right grinder, we had a lot of problems with the consistency of the finished product. Now our mulch is really nice – consistent, easy to work with and easy to clean. »
Moe notes that the “clean” part is important to them – early experiments had too much contamination from trash and gravel. These issues have been addressed, largely through better storage and management.
Over the past year, ORS/The Exchange has sold over 160 yards of mulch, and business is booming now that spring gardening is getting started in earnest. At just $20 per yard, it’s an absolute bargain and you feel good about using a truly circular, zero-waste product.
“If you think about it, it’s kind of crazy to ship potential soil off an island,” adds Moe.
You may have heard that ORS/The Exchange collects glass separately from other recyclables at a reduced price. They take that glass and grind it into sand-like particles with their new glass grinding system. Since their launch in November 2021, ORS/The Exchange has crushed 36.45 tons of glass.
Glass sand is ideal for excavation and construction projects, and there is a healthy local market with local excavation companies. But the material also offers all sorts of possibilities as a landscaping material.
“I think the most obvious use is for garden paths,” says Moe. “In fact, we heard it would kill slugs!” Which is something that almost all Orcas gardeners will find interesting.
The sand has a white to green to tan color, reflecting the predominant colors of the glass bottles and jars they receive. It has no sharp edges or harmful dust. When wet, it sparkles.
Excellent as a base for laying steps or as a non-adhesive “mortar” for masonry work. It has excellent drainage properties and works well in trenches and French drains.
But the possibilities have yet to be fully discovered. According to Moe, several people have expressed interest in experimenting with glass sand, mixing it with cement, plaster and other materials to see what else can be concocted.
ORS/The Exchange is currently offering free sand samples to people who want to experiment with it. In return, they simply ask for a report on the experience, hopefully with photos.
For larger volume projects, the price of the material has not yet been fixed and will be negotiated for the time being.
Saving these materials is essentially a washout for the business, Moe says. More importantly, the trash that was once sent back to the mainland now remains on the island as useful materials. There are business benefits to this – so far they have saved over $2,400 in glass disposal costs. Transportation costs – in dollars and carbon – are also reduced.
ORS/The Exchange invites anyone to stop and peruse these materials and take home a free sample.