About 100,000 pounds of waste might not seem like anything to celebrate, but it is when it's recycled material that otherwise would be dumped into landfills.
That is the amount of reusable trash collected by recycling bins in three national parks this past summer, in a program that a Utah industry - Huntsman Chemical Corp. - helped establish.So instead of taking up space and wasting natural resources, the 100,000 pounds will be recycled into everything from park benches to new glass bottles.
Huntsman Chemical, based in Salt Lake City, is a partner in the new recycling program, along with the National Park Service and Dow Chemical Co.
So far, the system has been serving Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, and Acadia National Parks in Maine. Yosemite National Park in California is set to join the program early next year.
The project allows park visitors to reduce the amount of waste heading for the landfills. They also learn about the importance of recycling.
They can place plastic, glass and aluminum waste in recycling bins. Other materials go into the trash. The recyclables are collected by a local business and taken to a recycler.
Some recycled plastics are expected to return to the park in the form of benches, picnic tables, sign posts and other products.
"Conserving resources is an integral part of everything we do at Huntsman," said Jon M. Huntsman, chairman and chief executive officer of Huntsman Chemical. "But we feel that responsibility does not stop at our factory gates."
Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan called the program innovative, and said it will promote both the benefits of recycling and the conservation of the natural environment.
Bright green and yellow logos identify recycling bins throughout the parks. Visitors hear a recycling message on the park radio bands and receive brochures and recycling bags when they check in at campgrounds.
Besides participating in the recycling program, 20 million people who visit the participating parks each year will have a chance to learn about the importance of recycling through exhibits, publications and campfire programs.
Now that the recycling effort has completed its first summer season, program coordinators have tallied its success: 50 tons of recyclables collected in just two months alone, collected in the three national parks.
In the Smokies, Dow analyzed four trailer-loads of material turned in for recycling. They contained 13,990 pounds of glass, 4,533 pounds of plastics and 4,385 pounds of aluminum. Glass, at 61 percent, was by far the most common material in the recycling bins.
John Reed, superintendent at Grand Canyon National Park, said the canyon's hotels, shops and restaurants are like a small city. "At any time, there may be 20,000 to 25,000 people a day visiting our facilities. That generates a lot of trash," he said.
"We think the Grand Canyon can be a role model and an example of how recycling can work."
In the first months, visitors and residents of Grand Canyon National Park recycled more than 60,000 pounds of waste.
Acadia, on Maine's coast, recycled nearly 25,000 pounds and the Smoky Mountains, nearly 23,000 pounds.
Don Olsen, a spokesman for Huntsman Chemical, said surveys indicate that while 80 percent of Americans support recycling, only about 10 percent actually participate. The Environmental protection Agency set 25 percent as its national goal, he said.