Grand Teton National Park chosen to pilot National Park Zero Landfill Initiative

(Moose, Wyo.) - Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) will now join Teton County and the Town of Jackson on a Zero Waste Initiative of their own. The program, called the National Park Zero Landfill Initiative, is a partnership between Subaru Motors, The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the National Park Service to reduce waste in the National Parks. GTNP is one of just three National Parks in the U.S. piloting the National Park Zero Landfill Initiative -- along with Yosemite National Park and Denali National Park. This is a significant endeavor, considering that GTNP had more than 2.49 million people visit the park in 2014 and is on track to break that record in 2015. Along with the millions of visitors, the park has up to 400 employees during peak season. These crowds resulted in 1,828 tons (3.6 million pounds) of trash in 2014, which is all hauled more than 100 miles to the landfill in Idaho. "All of our [the park's] trash and recycling goes through Teton County," said Margaret Wilson, planner and sustainability coordinator for GTNP. The cost of this trash is more than $200,000 in tip fees to the county, and that doesn't include employee time or gas costs. Subaru began this iniative after being the first to acheive a zero landfill facility for their automotive plant. In October 2014, Subaru approached the NPCA with an offer to help the National Parks strive to become zero landfill. According to Wilson, the objective is to leverage Subaru's expertise to help identify, test and promote practices that reduce the amount of trash that the National Park Service sends to the landfill. The pilot program officially kicked off in January and GTNP has been working closely with Subaru and the NPCA to develop a plan to reduce waste. In the last several months, GTNP has toured the Subaru plant, participated in brainstorming sessions with the organizations and hosted a site visit at the park. Additionally, Subaru assisted GTNP in conducting a Waste Characterization Study. For the study, a company came into the park to audit the trash and recycling containers in able determine how much recycling that GTNP is currently capturing. "One of the things that came out of the Waste Characterization Study was that our actual capture rate is really low," said Wilson. "We are finding a lot of recyclables in our trash." Most notably, GTNP is only capturing 16.3 percent of the #1 and #2 plastic bottles and 12.9 percent of aluminum cans. The next step is the development of the action plan for the park. One piece of the plan will include the hiring of two seasonal employees that will be dedicated to recycling in the park and the hiring of a consultant to work with the town and county on the zero waste plan. More importantly, much of the plan will focus on educating the park employees, local community and park visitors on recycling best practices. "The education and outreach is the most important part," said Wilson. The National Park Zero Landfill Initiative will help maintain the aesthetics of the park, help with wildlife management and save the park money in landfill costs. "By the end of this pilot, hopefully all three parks will have such a good program in place that it can be replicated throughout the whole parks service." said Wilson. More information on the program can be found on the Subaru website . *Feature Photo: Margaret Wilson, planner and sustainability coordinator for Grand Teton National Park.* #buckrail