Our national parks are shining examples of the American wilderness whose natural wonders attract millions of visitors from around the world. This popularity has a cost: national park visitors generate more than 100 million pounds of garbage each year, most of which ends up in landfills.
In the meantime, there has been a growing zero landfill movement across the country. Companies like Nike, Wal-Mart, Kraft Foods, and Nestle have joined the movement as have city governments in Boulder, Colorado and San Francisco, California.
Next year will mark the centennial anniversary of the national parks and three famous ones – Yosemite, Denali, and Grand Teton – have taken on the ambitious goal of eliminating nearly all their landfill trash. This is a tall order because unlike company-operated facilities, national parks have very little control over what enters and exits their gates.
Car maker Suburu has been involved in the zero landfill movement for over a decade and is acting as an adviser to the national parks. The parks are going to try to recycle, reuse or compost their waste instead of throwing it away. They are also engaging food suppliers, tour businesses and other involved parties in reducing the amount of trash and potential trash that comes into the parks.
These places are remote and often very seasonal in nature so setting up effective systems is difficult. The parks will need public-private partnerships to make progress. In the grand scheme of things, trash from national parks is but a drop in the bucket. But as symbols of a pristine and rich environment, it is important that our parks do their share to reduce the impact of trash.
Iconic National Parks Move to Eliminate Landfill Trash
Photo, posted May 12, 2013, courtesy of Edward Stojakovic via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.