Waste Management in the Happiest Place on Earth

by Allison Georgeson

After the constant workload of the summer semester, I was excited to have a short three week break to do a lot of relaxing. In that time, I went to Orange County, California to visit my brother who lives there. I love having family members around the country, and when they live in a vacation spot its even better!

Conveniently, Disneyland is located less than a mile away from my brother’s apartment, so I thought, what better way to relax from school than to go to the happiest place on Earth. But of course, I can’t just turn my brain off from academics, so I also spent the day looking into the park’s sustainability efforts.

Something I’m always conscious about when I’m on vacation with thousands of other people is the waste that many people in one place can produce. Especially those who do not notice what they use and where they throw it away, resort parks like this can be a huge contributor to waste. I noticed at Disneyland they have labeled trash and mixed recycling bins, each fitting the theme of the area of the park you are located in. While these are important, not all of the cans are labeled “mixed recycling”. If all of these recyclables go to the same facility, it would be beneficial to Disney’s patrons that they are all labeled as what can be thrown into them.

Another thing I noticed is the food waste at Disneyland. There are food stands and restaurants at just about every corner, and food is a huge source of revenue for the Disney parks. With as much food as there is being consumed, it is important Disney does its part to divert the extra waste and food containers. I walked into a restaurant and noticed special waste cans that encouraged recycling the food containers and offered a special waste location for liquids. According to Disneyland’s public affairs website, these liquids are disposed in a sewer drain and then sent to the county recycling center. At one food stand location I noticed the food containers were not made out of plastic like at every other location, so I asked a cast member for an empty container. This specific location uses compostable bowls, which is great for the environment and if this practice is implemented around the whole park, could reduce their waste significantly. I was wondering, however, if these bowls are simply thrown away with the rest of the trash, is their compostable ability really being exploited for everything it should be.

Although Disney is making clear efforts to be more environmentally conscious and manage their waste in a sustainable manner, it does not go unnoticed that they could be doing more. While they are promoting efforts behind the scenes and from within the organization, they don’t do a lot of publicity for those, or market them in the parks. From a park that has so many customers and a company that has so much influence, they could potentially do a lot to educate the public on what each person can do to help the environment.

On a lighter note, I did appreciate the character theme, Disney created a billboard using characters from the “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory” movies to show park-goers the effects of plastics in the oceans. This caught my eye and the eyes of many others, and is an impactful, on-brand effort for Disney to do their part and encourage sustainable behavior.