Yellowstone talk stirs Steamboat crowd | SteamboatToday.com

Yellowstone talk stirs Steamboat crowd

Presentation shows how park is working to reduce waste

Mike Lawrence

Two Yellowstone National Park employees stand in 2005 atop a gas cylinder recycling machine that was then one of a kind. The machine, which compresses the cylinders and reuses the extra propane inside them, now is used at several national parks in the United States and Canada.

— Yellowstone National Park generates more than 11,000 gallons of used cooking oil every summer. That's on top of more than 4,000 tons of trash generated each year, including a staggering 25,000 propane gas cylinders used by campers in 2009 alone.

Cleaning up campers' big mess is a big project, the park's environmental protection specialist said Monday.

Jim Evanoff spoke about Yellowstone's conservation ef­­forts to an appreciative lunchtime audience at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, during the Colorado Association for Recycling's 2010 Summit for Recycling.

The summit began with a reception Sunday night and concludes today with speakers, exhibits, awards and a tour of the Milner Landfill. Today's lunchtime keynote presentation is by Jerry Powell, of Resource Recycling, a recycling magazine and news service based in Portland, Ore. Powell will speak from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m. about the state of recycling in 2010 and beyond. Also today is a free, public expo by Northern Colorado Clean Cities, which will showcase electric and hybrid cars from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. outside the Sheraton.

Evanoff has been an environmental protection specialist at Yellowstone for the past 10 years and an employee there for the past 20. He detailed on Monday some of the innovations and partnerships behind Yellowstone's conservation ef­­fort.

It's no small task.

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The iconic national park spans more than 2.2 million acres and is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. The park has more than 2,000 hotel rooms and about 2,000 sealable trash cans, which are emptied every day to minimize wildlife scavenging.

Evanoff said reducing waste at the park is an ongoing, step-by-step process. But the results have been positive.

Of the 4,200 tons of waste generated at Yellowstone Na­­tional Park in 2009, crews di­­verted about 3,300 tons through composting and recycling — keeping about 80 percent of the massive park's waste out of landfills.

"We're shooting for 85 percent next year," Evanoff said.

After an analysis showed that 40 percent of Yellowstone's trash is food waste, park officials created a composting center. Now, all of the park's waste goes there and is sorted between organic and nonorganic material.

That sorting process, he said, led to the discovery of hundreds of small shampoo bottles from the park's hotel rooms. All those bottles now have a corn starch base. Cooking oil is used directly in buildings' heating systems at the Old Faithful geyser and Mammoth Hot Springs. The viewing platform for Old Faithful is made of recycled plastic that's the equivalent of 3 million plastic milk jugs.

Evanoff said finding a solution for the propane gas cylinders was one of the most challenging hurdles. Manufacturers de­­­clined to help with the problem, he said. Eventually, work with a small group in Billings, Mont., resulted in "the world's first-ever propane cylinder recycling unit," a trailer-borne machine that can process 1,000 cylinders a day. Propane from the cylinders powers the machine's compressor, Evan­off said.

"Not one single dollar of taxpayer money was used to fund that $50,000 trailer," he said, citing partnerships with groups including AmeriGas and outdoor gear retailer REI.

The unit became operational in 2005. The patented machine now is used in several national parks, all the state parks in Florida, and in Canada, Evanoff said.

"Our next challenge is taking on bear spray," he added, citing a similar problem with cylinders containing Freon and pepper oil. "We will be receiving delivery this month of the first-ever-in-the-world bear spray recycling unit."

Graduate students at Montana State University developed the first prototype, he said. The Freon will be resold, and pepper oils will be blended with the park's heating oil.

Steamboat's deputy city manager Wendy Du­­Bord said Evan­­off's presentation sparked her interest in the potential of biodiesel or hybrid vehicles. Evanoff said that "anything that's diesel in Yellowstone National Park operates on a biodiesel blend," including heavy equipment.

The city of Steamboat Springs has one hybrid bus and two more on the way, DuBord said, plus several hybrid vehicles. She said there's room for growth.

"I'm very impressed with the biodiesel opportunities," DuBord said. "To me, it seems like one of the best ways to make a difference."

If you go

What:Colorado Association for Recycling’s 2010 Summit for Recycling

When: 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today. A tour of the Milner Landfill is from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

Where: Sheraton Steamboat Resort; tour is at the landfill off U.S. Highway 40 west of Steamboat Springs.

Cost: CAFR members: $195 for today’s events. Nonmembers: $225

Keynote speaker: Jerry Powell, of Resource Recycling, a recycling magazine and news service based in Portland, Ore., speaks from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m. with thoughts on the state of recycling in 2010 and beyond.

Online: See the full agenda, registration information and more at http://www.cafr.org/summit