Recycling in Antarctica

When I recycle, I have to separate out metal, plastic, chipboard, glass, plain paper, glossy paper, and newsprint. That sounds like a lot of separating, until you compare it to the recycling protocol at McMurdo Scientific Research Station, Antarctica.

There is nothing at McMurdo that wasn't flown or shipped there from far away. That costs a lot money. And, almost as importantly, it costs space. A crate of Ramen means less room for people, scientific instruments, etc. Nothing arrives in Antarctica without a purpose.

On the flip side of that coin: Everything that is brought to McMurdo must leave, in one way or another. There aren't any landfills in Antarctica. All the trash produced must be either burned, reused there, or flown back to civilization.

All of that means McMurdo has developed what is probably the most elaborate recycling program in the entire world. The trash matrix you see above is just half of the full list. You can see the other half after the jump — as well as a few extra recycling bins that turned up mysteriously one night.

The following bins are not officially part of the McMurdo Station recycling program. But they are pretty wonderful.

Among the things that can now be recycled at McMurdo: Your dreams.

Glitter is also a limited resource. Please re-use and recycle.

Not all recycling is fun recycling.

And, finally, another view of the Glitter recycling container, as a Unicorn Chaser. On the left, an actual recycling container.

You all owe Henry Kaiser a huge round of applause for taking these photographs and sending them to me. Alternately, you can show your appreciation by visiting his YouTube site, which is full of amazing videos of life beneath the Antarctic sea ice.