Park Waste: Seeking Answers to a Serious Problem

Posted by David Moore on

You might be shocked to learn that national park visitors generate a whopping 100 million pounds of garbage each year, resulting in enough trash to fill the Statue of Liberty more than 1,800 times. If shoved into the standard household trash bag, this amount of waste would fill 20 million bags and would stretch all the way from New York to Los Angeles two times. That’s a lot of trash.

Overcoming Hurdles

Despite the amount of trash that they generate, many park visitors remain blissfully unaware of the impact they have with their waste. In fact, a study conducted by Subaru of America and the National Parks Conservation Association found that 59 percent of Americans are unaware of the challenges that parks face in terms of waste collection. While the recent government shut down has helped bring this to light as visitors continue to come to the parks despite a lack of rangers to keep them clean, many still fail to realize the impact their waste has on our parks.

Handling Waste

While waste comes in a variety of forms at national parks, additional studies have found that the majority of the waste generated in parks comes from items that are brought into the park. Furthermore, the bulk of the waste is in the form of food waste and plastic water bottles, both of which are not only unattractive but also pose threats to wildlife.

To assist with keeping the parks clean, many companies and organizations are sponsoring initiatives designed to spread awareness and bring the necessary tools to the parks to successfully collect refuse. BearSaver, for example, is proud to work side-by-side with our national parks to bring them high-quality and effective animal resistant trash receptacles and recycling bins. Subaru’s Zero Landfill Initiative has also taken a lead role in bringing about change, with its Subaru of Indiana facility being a zero landfill operation since 2004.

Branching Out

In order to fulfill its zero landfill initiative, Subaru has implemented a systematic effort that involves separating all of the plant’s food waste for composting and even sending dust to a recycling facility where copper and other metals are reclaimed. Despite manufacturing around 400,000 cars per year at the facility, the company has managed to reduce its waste to zero over the past decade. Now, Subaru is branching out to share its techniques with businesses, schools and other organizations. Three of our national parks – Denali, Grand Teton, and Yosemite – are also running pilot tests of the program.

Of course, some parks have more logistical challenges than others. In Alaska’s Denali National Park, for example, there is no market for composted food. In the Tetons, on the other hand, composting food attracts bears. Nonetheless, the parks have implemented initiatives to move toward zero waste. Denali, for example, has started a Zero Landfill Youth Ambassador Program. Meanwhile, BearSaver has helped Yosemite with its initiatives by bringing in new food storage containers. The park is also installing new recycling and trash containers in high-traffic locations. Through these and other similar efforts, the parks will be properly preserved for people to cherish for years to come.

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