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Spring Great Islands Clean Up Event

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

Since 2015 there has been a concerted inter-island effort to clean up

our San Juan Islands roads and beaches twice a year during events called “The Great Islands Clean Up”. This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, April 24th from 9 am - 2 pm.

2020 was a hard year for everyone. Although there was both a Spring and Fall Great Islands Clean Up, these events were done by individuals and households over a week-long period. Many people found that they missed the enthusiasm generated by working with others on a single day.

The theme for this season’s Clean Up is “Restore Hope”, our local take on the national Earthday theme of “Restoring the Earth”. In 2021 Lopez, Orcas, San Juan and Shaw Islands are working to Restore Hope for ourselves and our island home.

The County Solid Waste Manager, Mark Ingman, has extra funding available this year in the litter grant that pays for the waste disposal from these biannual events. These funds will make it possible to collect and properly dispose of tires from our marine and terrestrial ecosystems. No-cost acceptance of tires at the Great Islands Cleanup at the April 24th event is for littered/dumped tires on public lands, roads, and beaches. This event is not for household tires, but an event for household tires may be scheduled in the future. Any group/household of GICU litter participants can bring in up to 5 tires they find on public lands April 24th. Removing tires from our ecosystems is important: A compound that helps preserve the rubber in tires has been found to be the key contributor to the death of adult Coho salmon. Therefore, removing tires from our lands, beaches, and waters will contribute to the health and resilience of the salmon. To read more about the scientists who uncovered this connection between salmon die off and tires:

Another wonderful resource is the app that can be added to smartphones, Marine litter that is difficult to access can be photographed and its location uploaded for pick up by the Department of Natural Resources via boat.

To reduce the use of plastic bags, participants are encouraged to use 5 gallon handled buckets they may already have at home for waste pick up, and to separate recyclables from garbage. Most islands have supplies like orange safety vests, litter pickers/grabbers, and gloves available to be borrowed at registration.

So get your “pod” together, get out into the fresh air and SPRING into action! To sweeten the deal for volunteers, Lopez Island will be featuring free baked goods from Holly B’s Bakery and coffee supplied by Lopez Grind, supporting our local businesses in Covid recovery. Come to the drive thru registration behind Public Works by the Dump, where supplies can be borrowed and safety waivers signed. With safety and spacing in mind, please arrive for registration any time between 9 - 10 am to spread out arrival times so there is not a traffic cluster. Litter and recycling can be dropped off at the same location starting at 11 am. To register for a beach or road route on Lopez in advance, please contact Skeet (James) Townley at Groups can also sign safety waivers virtually and register online via

This year Lopez is beginning a “Golden Grabbers” Zero Waste Hero Award to be given out annually at the Spring GICU event. Come celebrate Mike Moore, the first recipient to receive this award, at 10 am at the registration event. To read more about Moore and the new Golden Grabber Award, go to


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