10 December, 1996
At McMurdo conservation and recycling are daily activities. Everything here except sewerage is recycled. There is a standing joke that everyone here needs two academic degrees, one to do their scientific research and another in waste management.
When the station was initially constructed, garbage was left on the sea ice throughout the year. As the ice broke up in the summer, the trash floated away, transported by the currents and the wind. A pollution problem was developing in some of the most remote locations on the planet. This accumulation of trash was enhanced by the absence of scavengers and bacteria that feed on and decay organic matter. Fortunately the problem was recognized and remedied before it got out of hand.
Currently all remote sites have trash and human waste returned to McMurdo by plane or helicopter for processing . The waste is segregated according to type and once a year shipped to the US aboard the cargo ship Greenwave. All burnables are used to generate energy in the state of Washington. Metals, glass, paper, and plastics are all recycled. The galley typically reserves food that is not eaten during one meal until it is ultimately reduced to human waste. Only sewerage gets returned to the local environment. Most of the people at the remote camps are very serious about keeping the environment pristine. When we flew into the camp at Lake Hoara a young woman came out of the hut to greet us. The first thing she said was "hello", the second was "did you bring U bottles". If I were back home I would have thought nothing of using three gallons of water to flush away one pint. I've got to make an effort to be more frugal in my use of resources when I return to Connecticut.
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