Biodegradable ‘plastics’ in Yosemite

Keep an eye out if you’re drinking from a disposable ‘plastic’ cup in Yosemite, or get a ‘plastic’ take-out container. The embossed markings on these can be sometimes hard to read, but most of these items aren’t plastic at all. Look for the words, “Made from Plant Products”, which indicate that a container, cup or whatever is biodegradable and compostable. DNC recently blocked orders of plastic items to make sure managers are ordering biodegradable items instead of the (often cheaper) plastic versions. That means that as existing stocks disappear, more and more of these containers will be environmentally friendly instead.

Thanks to a partnership with the Mariposa Waste and Recycling Facility, we’ve actually tested products to make sure that they are biodegradable in their composting facility. That means biodegradable items can go directly into the trash.

The process of finding good, workable alternatives to plastic disposables has taken a long time and a lot of research and effort on the part of our environmental manager, his team, and operations managers, and they are still working on it. Right now, there are only two exceptions to the order block. Managers can still order plastic utensils, and trash liners. We’ve found some excellent and sturdy biodegradable utensils, but they come in packets that include knife fork and spoon. What if you only need a fork? Individually dispensed utensils are still plastic – for now. We’re working to find solutions for that too. I also remember hearing about tests being done with trash liners – but the Green options just weren’t robust enough and were creating other issues, so we’re still looking.

Maybe it isn’t a perfect system yet, but it’s exciting to be moving in the right direction.