National Park Service Kicks Off Zero-Landfill Pilot

CC BY 2.0. edward stojakovic

Three of America's most iconic National Parks are getting a helping hand on their waste management practices from Subaru's zero-landfill experts.

It's unfortunate that some of our most beautiful places, our public lands, are also a place for one of our ugliest habits, wastefulness, to rear its head, but that may be changing, thanks to a partnership between Subaru, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), and the National Park Service (NPS).

According to the NPS, more than 100 million pounds of waste were generated in National Parks in 2013, with most of it coming from the 273 million annual park visitors. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, because it only accounts for the waste managed by the NPS, not the amount of waste generated through park concessioners, which provide food services, lodging, transportation, retail shops, and other amenities, and which is considerably more than the above waste figure. This waste takes a toll on the resources of the National Parks, including labor, finances, and equipment, and although some of it gets diverted from landfills through recycling, composting, reuse, or source reduction, it still adds up to a virtual mountain of waste, which is a shame considering that it comes from visitors who travel to our public lands for a taste of the beauty of nature.

Subaru has been a leader in zero landfill practices for more than a decade now, and the company freely lends its zero landfill expertise to other companies and organizations wishing to get a handle on their waste practices. This partnership with the NPCA is a logical extension of its corporate social responsibility initiatives, and could lead to not only better waste management practices in three of our most well-known national parks, but also to the development of "scalable zero landfill implementation plans" that can be adopted by other national parks in the near future.

The zero landfill pilot project includes Yosemite, Grand Teton, and Denali National Parks, which had more than seven million visitors in 2013 (combined), and which generated some 16.6 million pounds of waste from visitors (6.9 million pounds of that was diverted from landfills).

Representatives from the NPS, the NPCA, the National Park Foundation (NPF), and concessioners from the three parks, visited Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc. (SIA) earlier this year to learn about Subaru's zero landfill best practices, and worked with sustainability experts at Subaru to identify waste management challenges and opportunities present at each location. A team from Subaru then visited each pilot park to help with assessing current park waste management practices and introduce ideas for possible initiatives necessary to meet zero landfill goals at the parks.

The NPCA will conduct a baseline waste audit for each park, and review current practices for composting, recycling, hazardous waste management, as well as explore "visitor waste behaviors," with the intent of documenting these efforts and creating zero landfill implementation plans that can be scaled to fit other national parks.

"National parks are an important part of our country and of our legacy. Actions we take now will pay dividends for years to come. And one of those actions is addressing the trash produced and found in our parks. If Subaru can build cars without contributing to landfills, how might that translate to our national parks? By marrying a private success story to a public need, it can be a very powerful model, not just for the centennial but for decades to come." - Clark Bunting, president and CEO of NPCA

This zero landfill initiative, which has a goal of "significantly reducing waste going into landfills from all national parks," is part of a bigger partnership between Subaru of America and the NPF, which seeks to help celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service next year.

"We are delighted to be able to share Subaru’s expertise with our national parks. Subaru owners are passionate national park visitors and we are very pleased that we can make a positive contribution to a resource we all treasure." - Thomas J. Doll, president and CEO of Subaru of America, Inc.