Every year, visitors to U.S. national parks generate more than 100 million pounds of waste — enough to fill the Statue of Liberty 1,800 times, according to the National Parks Conservation Association. What makes up this tremendous waste stream? More importantly, are there ways to divert more of it from unsustainable, methane-emitting landfills and into carbon-zero systems?
Since its inception, the modern global recycling industry has developed a worldwide infrastructure. In the U.S., recyclables are separated out at material recovery facilities (MRFs), packed into bales, and sent to other nations, which house the world’s processing capacity. More often than not, until recently, that meant China.
The best way to reduce waste is to create less of it in the first place. In the food processing industry, source reduction requires creative new material-handling techniques in addition to changes in the use of packaging.
Recycling metal scraps requires some serious material handling equipment. Huge, crane-like material handlers grasp, compress, and lift bales of scrap steel. Skid-steer loaders separate metals in the yard. Pick-and-carry vehicles stack layers of scrap into organized rows.
Pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) programs represent a powerful strategy for limiting landfill-bound content in municipal waste systems. As residents respond to the incentives built into a PAYT strategy, though, haulers, material recovery facilities (MRF), and other stakeholders within the sustainable materials management stream must be prepared to absorb the changes.