GRAND CANYON, Ariz. September 26, 2016 – Denver-based National Park concessions manager, Xanterra Parks and Resorts, Inc., has helped guests access some of the most beautiful natural sites on earth since 1905. With a mission of offering legendary hospitality with a softer footprint, Xanterra has long been a pioneer of environmental leadership and commitment to sustainability. So in 2016 they engaged UL to partner with them to review their waste and recycling program at the Grand Canyon National Park to help them meet recycling goals and move toward Zero Waste Certification.
As a leader in sustainability, UL is at the forefront of helping companies improve their performance across a variety of industries through use of sound principles. UL authored the Zero Waste to Landfill Standard UL2799, which is currently under review to become adopted as an ANSI standard. UL utilizes the standard as a framework to assess companies’ waste reduction programs and offer guidance to help close the gaps in their program and support their circular economy efforts. The evaluation process utilized by UL can assist companies at any point along their journey toward zero waste, from just getting started to global assessments and validations.
When UL was engaged, Xanterra had already taken major steps to minimize and divert waste from the landfill through development and implementation of recycling infrastructure and other initiatives. For example, they had installed plentiful recycling bins across the park to make it easy for guests to recycle. They collect and return many consumables including disposable K cups and latex gloves, and mail them back to the manufacturers for reuse and recycling. In the park, they collect manure from the mules and compost it in Flagstaff, Arizona. These are just a few of the efforts already in place to divert and reduce waste.
However, even with the waste reduction efforts already in place, Xanterra still sees quite the journey ahead to achieve its waste minimization goals. The wild card in the scenario is managing public behavior. Subaru of America, in conjunction with National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), recently released the Subaru National Park Survey. The study found that plastic waste, such as water bottles, plastic bags, non-recyclable or compostable food packaging, and paper hot cups, are the main drivers of waste sent to landfills and the biggest concern in the national parks. The survey also found that some visitors are not doing their part to support waste reduction. For example, only 49 percent of park visitors reported sorting trash and recycling into separate containers before leaving the park. Only two in five (40 percent) take their trash with them when leaving.
Xanterra’s goal is to create both infrastructure and culture around waste diversion and reduction that successfully enlists park visitors in the effort to achieve zero waste. Some examples include developing recycling containers with universally accepted signage that communicates to visitors of any culture or language, the proper way to recycle, so that the right waste is disposed of in the right bin. The installation of refillable water stations conveniently across the park can help reduce or eliminate the use of disposable plastic water bottles, a major source of waste.
“Xanterra is investing in a long-term commitment to building the framework, strategies and educational outreach to help us achieve our waste reduction goals so that we can deliver our guests outstanding experiences while having minimal negative impact on the environment. The qualified sustainability experts at UL are helping us raise the bar by providing us with the insight and tools required to help us improve and maintain our successful waste diversion program,” said David Perkins, Director of Sustainability at Xanterra. UL is partnering with Xanterra to take the exciting and impactful next steps toward the zero waste journey. For Xanterra, the vision of achieving true zero waste is driving changes across their organization and the national parks they serve. For more information on the standard or how companies are evaluated, visit UL’s Standard Site.