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Three National Parks to Test Zero-Waste Pilots

Article-Three National Parks to Test Zero-Waste Pilots

Move over New York City—the National Park Service (NPS) has announced plans to test a zero landfill pilot at three of its national parks.

Yosemite, Grand Teton and Denali are the three parks slated to take part in the initiative as part of the NPS’s centennial celebration.

To put the pilot into place, NPS is getting tips from Subaru, which has partnered with the park service to share the knowledge it gained when it was the first automotive assembly plant in the U.S. to go landfill-free in 2004. NPS will also partner with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the National Park Foundation on the project.

Not counting the amount of waste generated and managed by national park concessions contractors—which the park systems says is greater that the amount of general waste generated—the NPS managed more than 100 million pounds of waste in 2013. In Yosemite, Grand Teton and Denali alone, visitors generated 16.6 million pounds of waste that same year, 6.9 million pounds of which was diverted from landfills through recycling, reuse or composting, says NPS.

The initiative aims to increase the amount of waste diverted, both on the visitor-generated side, as well as the concessions side.

As a starting point, NPS says the NPCA will conduct a baseline waste audit at the three parks to review current recycling, composting and reduction efforts. The audit will also review visitor waste behaviors and use the data to develop implementation plans for those three parks, and possibly other national parks in the future.

And the movement may not stop at national parks and auto assembly plants. Several cities across the country have made zero-waste their goals, at least at city-sponsored events, and other metropolises like San Diego and Chicago are working on plans to follow the lead of cities like San Francisco and New York City, which have goals to reduce or discontinue sending waste to landfills.

On the other hand, the NPS is not stopping its environmental stewardship at reducing its contributions to landfills. At the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon, net zero housing was implemented at the ranger station—which generates 67 percent more energy than it consumes. And at Mammoth Cave National Park, a 30,000-gallon cistern collects rainwater to operate public toilets and more than 84 percent of the park’s waste was diverted from landfills as early as 2011.

Many of the park’s green initiatives are set to culminate for the centennial celebration in 2016, when the parks system will celebrate its 100th birthday on Aug. 25, 2016.

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