Subaru of America Helps Reduce Landfill Waste Generated In National Parks

Waste is a bigger problem in national parks than many Americans realize. The National Park Service (NPS) manages over 100 million pounds of waste across the country. Much of that waste is generated by the more than 300 million people who visit national parks annually. Over half (59 percent) of Americans who responded to a survey are not aware of the waste management challenges facing the national parks.

Conducted by Subaru of America and National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the survey also found that more than four in five (84 percent) said they would be willing to make a significant effort to reduce the amount of trash left in parks. Subaru and NPCA also conducted a study at three national parks (Yosemite, Grand Teton and Denali) and found that plastic waste, non-recyclable or compostable food packaging, and paper hot cups are the main drivers of waste from the parks sent to landfills.

Subaru has the first automotive assembly plant in the U.S. designated as zero landfill. Now, the company has started an initiative to share its knowledge of zero landfill practices with national parks, with the goal of significantly reducing the waste generated in the parks from winding up in landfills. There are initiatives at each park as a result, including a Zero Landfill Youth Ambassador Program at Denali to support employee and visitor education programs.

Subaru and Recycle Across America (RAA) announced a donation in December to support the use of RAA’s standardized recycling label system within national parks. The donation supports Subaru’s zero landfill initiative at the three national parks where the waste study was conducted, helping reduce landfill waste from parks by encouraging recycling participation through replacement of conflicting signs and messages. (An audit conducted in national parks found that they had signs and messages about recycling that were conflicting.)

The NPCA and Subaru identified the RAA labeling system as the best recycling solution. RAA was the first to develop society-wide standardized labels for recycling bins in 2010, and is still the only system of its kind in the country. There are over 1.25 million RAA labels across the U.S. Studies show that national park visitors are willing to help reduce the amount of trash left in the parks. If the requirements for recycling are communicated to visitors in a clear and easy-to-understand manner, they are more likely to comply successfully.

Using RAA system, three different standardized recycling bins are in the parks where they are being piloted. There are bins for mixed recycled where visitors can deposit their glass, paper and plastic trash, bins for composting where they can throw away their food scraps, and bins for non-recyclable objects that will be taken to a landfill. Over a million tons of trash a year are placed in the wrong recycling bins in national parks. If the RAA system is successful, it will be used at other parks.

Photo: Subaru of America