LV Sketchbook Page 038
Waste management is taken very seriously in Antarctica. Everyone deploying to U.S. Antarctic facilities is required to attend a waste management briefing on their arrival. Segregating garbage into numerous categories is a fundamental part of waste handling at McMurdo Station, enabling a 65% recycling rate on the Ice (versus 20-25% in the US). Personnel at field sites are trained to treat and report hazardous spills, and waste procedures are extra-stringent in uniquely sensitive areas such as the Dry Valleys.
Despite these efforts, human presence continues to take a toll on the environment. In 2014, scientists detected high levels of toxic chemicals in wastewater being released into McMurdo Sound, according to National Geographic. The contaminants— namely a flame retardant known as HBCD — have subsequently been detected in the tissue of surrounding wildlife. The chemicals’ affect on the animals is yet to be determined, and remedial action on part of the research bases has not yet been announced.