What To Do with Waste in Antarctica
With little precipitation, nearly constant below-freezing temperatures and very little exposed soil, very little decomposition takes place in Antarctica. In the early years of the now 53-year-old United States Antarctic Program (USAP), solid waste was incinerated, buried under ice or dumped off the coast and in a would-be landfill near McMurdo Station. The Antarctic Conservation Act of 1991 brought new environmental regulations into effect, including better management of waste. Currently, all waste generated from USAP is collected and shipped to a landfill and recycling station in California, with the exception of waste from Palmer Station on the Antarctic peninsula, which is shipped to Chile. Recycling is mandatory, and 65 percent of all waste is recycled. Large and well-marked bins collect glass, paper, plastic, cardboard, food waste, metal and construction materials. The Antarctic Conservation Act has truly reduced the impact of science research in Antarctica, especially when it comes to waste.