Waste Reduction

To ensure a more sustainable future for the national parks, the National Park Service (NPS) has taken steps to reduce the amount of waste generated at parks. Learn how NPS efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle are keeping waste out of landfills and helping to protect the environment.
The NPS strives to preserve the National Park System’s natural and cultural resources for this and future generations to learn from and enjoy. To this end, the NPS and its partners have worked to identify strategies to encourage reducing, reusing, and recycling in parks. The initiatives described on this page have helped the NPS to work with local communities, park concessioners, and visitors to make reducing waste easier than ever.
Grand Teton National Park mountain and meadow view
Among the pilot parks in the Zero Landfill Initiative is Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Photo: NPS

Zero Landfill Initiative
In 2015, the NPS partnered with Subaru of America and the National Parks Conservation Association to pilot a Zero Landfill Initiative in three national parks: Denali National Park and Preserve, Grand Teton National Park, and Yosemite National Park.

The initiative’s overarching goal is to test and promote practices that reduce the amount of waste parks send to landfills. Because each pilot park has unique waste management challenges and processes, Zero Landfill Initiative activities began with an assessment of each pilot park’s recycling, composting, and waste management practices; a baseline audit and waste characterization study; and surveys to identify what influences visitor waste behavior.

The initiative’s successes, challenges, lessons learned, and best practices can be grouped into six primary categories:

Teamwork and Partnerships
Waste Bins with Yosemite mountain backdrop
Staff install new recycling bins as part of Zero Landfill Initiative at Yosemite National Park.

Photo: NPS

Lessons Learned
  • Both in-park and external community resources can help accomplish zero waste goals.
  • There are limitations to what NPS concessioners are able to do on their own with respect to waste management.
  • Collaboration is necessary between the park and surrounding communities, as is understanding the regional waste landscape.
Visitor Communication
Lessons Learned
  • Effective communication with visitors can significantly reduce visitor waste.
To learn more about how you can green your national park visit, check out the Get Involved page.

Employee Communication and Culture
Food Waste Management
Data Collection
National Concessions Visitor Waste Impact Study
Because visitors are the primary source of increased waste in National Parks, park concessioners have important opportunities to assess and improve upon their services to park visitors and thus play a vital role in reducing waste in parks. Building upon the findings in the Zero Landfill Initiative, the NPS launched its National Concessions Visitor Waste Impact Study in 2020. The ongoing study’s overarching goals are to evaluate the existing waste management practices across a variety of park concessioner operations and identify and encourage concessioners’ implementation of best practices for solid waste diversion. The National Concessions Visitor Waste Impact Study will provide valuable information and lessons learned that can be leveraged to help solve concessioner waste management and waste reduction challenges across the NPS.

Other Resources
To learn more about NPS efforts to reduce waste, visit the following web pages:


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    Last updated: April 23, 2021