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Greenest Park Initiative

Waste Reduction



2020Centennial Goal: By 2016, Yellowstone National Park will divert 100% of its solid waste from landfills.


In 2007, Yellowstone generated 3,500 tons of waste, and diverted 75% of it from landfills.

Through the Greenest Park Initiative, the Park will continue to increase its solid waste diversion through recycling, composting, and other waste management improvements.

Bear Spray Canister RecyclingBear Spray Canister Recycling

Bear-deterrent pepper spray is considered a good, last line of defense in an encounter with an aggressive bear. But many visitors to the Yellowstone region throw away full canisters because they are not allowed on airplanes. These canisters end up in landfills due to the inability to recycle them. As a result, Yellowstone personnel, working with the Yellowstone Park Foundation and other partners, began to develop strategies to address the issue and eventually had a commercial-grade recycling machine custom designed. The machine removes the pepper oil and propellant, and then crushes the canister to be recycled as aluminum. Thanks to generous support from the business community to the Yellowstone Park Foundation, this machine was manufactured and was delivered to the Park in the fall of 2010. Following the development of a cooperative plan to share the unit with other parks, public land units, and gateway communities, it will be put to use starting in the spring of 2011. Read more about the Bear Spray Canister Recycling project

RecyclingRecycling in the Park

Ninety recycling bins are located throughout Yellowstone to collect aluminum, steel, cardboard, glass, paper, and plastic. In addition, propane canisters and electronic waste are also collected.  However, improvements are needed to make collection more efficient and recycling bins more distinguishable from waste bins.

With the Yellowstone Park Foundation’s support, the Park will work to improve recycling sites to make it easier for staff and visitors to recycle their waste. Signage will also be enhanced so that waste and recycling receptacles are easily distinguished.

wood grinderWood Grinder

Wood chips are a key ingredient in the composting process, but without proper equipment the Park cannot reuse most of its wood waste.

With the Yellowstone Park Foundation’s support, the Park will purchase a mobile drum grinder so that, throughout the Park, wood waste can be ground into reusable woodchips for compost production.

waste managementWaste Management

Around here, Yellowstone is sometimes referred to as America’s 51st state due to its large geographical size as well as the complexity involved with its operation and management.  So too, Yellowstone’s waste management system is complex. In order to reach the Park’s ambitious—and first in the National Park Service—goal to divert 100% of solid waste, steps must be taken to improve efficiency in waste-handling systems.

With the Yellowstone Park Foundation’s support, the Park will implement an analysis of current waste hauling routes, sites, and protocols, and make immediate improvements based on recommendations.

waste educationWaste Education

Reaching the zero-waste goal is ambitious, but achievable with full participation from the Park’s partners, employees, and visitors.

With the Yellowstone Park Foundation’s support, Yellowstone will launch a broad waste education campaign to encourage visitors and staff to contribute to the success of the waste reduction program.