Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: How Cast Members Are Making a Difference Across Disney Parks, Experiences and Products

Shelby Grasser

by , Manager - Corporate Citizenship, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products

“Conservation isn’t just the business of a few people, it’s a matter that concerns all of us.”

Walt Disney’s words still ring true for cast members across Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, who work together on our journey to a more sustainable future. And for many, the passion is personal.

“A few years ago, I took a trip to the Maldives. I was in paradise, yet there was a floating island of plastic,” remembered Heather Sylvester, a Sous Chef at Golden Oak, a resort-style residential community located at Walt Disney World. “That’s when I realized the global impact our recycling, or lack thereof, makes, and I started to look for more sustainable ways to work and live.”

So, how do cast members like Chef Heather make a difference? Here are just some of the ways Disney cast members are reducing, reusing and recycling every single day.

Crew members Ace Barcelona on the Disney Dream

It takes passionate crew members like Ace Barcelona, who is part of our Environmental Team onboard the Disney Dream. He helps crew members separate products and identify waste that can be recycled. His hard work has contributed to the diversion of more than 2,500 tons of metals, glass, plastic and paper annually through recycling efforts across Disney Cruise Line.

“I take home the knowledge and experience I have gained at Disney Cruise Line and share with my family to educate and inspire my children,” Ace shared. “Now, my little daughter and teenage son are the pioneers of recycling at home, and it makes me very proud as a father. At a young age, they have a good understanding of how they can have an impact on the environment and make a difference.”

Whether recycling glass, paper or even used cooking oil (yes – over 1,000 gallons of cooking oil is recycled from the ships every week), Disney Cruise Line is committed to reducing waste. You may have heard the news that we recently reduced the number of single-use plastics onboard. An example of this is Disney Cruise Line’s decision to eliminate the use of plastic straws – removing an annual volume of more than 14.7 million. We also switched to refillable bath product dispensers in all guest staterooms, removing an annual distribution of more than 2.2 million plastic amenity containers across our fleet – a total of 18 tons of plastic waste. Other measures include stopping the use of plastic shopping bags, cutlery, stirrers and condiment packages onboard.

Want to get involved on your next Disney cruise? Add a reusable water bottle to your packing list! Our ships have bottle filling stations and canned water, which help eliminate thousands of plastic bottles every week. You can find recycling bins throughout all four ships and on Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island.

Over at Disneyland Resort, the Resort Enhancement team has proven that recycling can be out of this world! Phil Rahn, a Resort Enhancement Manager, revealed that when it came time for his team to fabricate space age props for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, they literally turned to their own junk!

Resort Enhancement team at Disneyland Resort recycling props for Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge decor

The team scavenged old equipment that had been replaced during repairs, transforming used circuit boards, wires and other electronics into the intergalactic embellishments you see while visiting the remote outpost of Batuu.

“This was a big win all around,” remembers Phil. “We saved money by not purchasing new equipment, we saved time by not having to theme the props, but most importantly, we played a role in saving the earth by keeping used equipment from going to landfill.”

When you next visit Disneyland Resort, look for hidden objects in the prop and set décor. “As decorators, we love the challenge of creating something great and unique, with what others would call junk, and we’re always looking for ways to repurpose everyday objects into our story,” Phil said.

Beyond Batuu, teams at Disneyland Resort promote practices that reduce our environmental impact. For example, the Disneyland Resort steam trains and Mark Twain Riverboat use biodiesel made with used cooking oil from our kitchens. This process eliminates ~200,000 gallons of petroleum diesel per year.

Senior Duty Manager at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Jan McMichael

Walt Disney World Resort has taken continuous steps to reduce our environmental footprint, and cast members like Jan McMichael, a Senior Duty Manager at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, get creative. Recognizing that nearly 300,000 plastic tie wraps were used each year to secure sign banners, hang fence scrim and tie down venue seats, Jan’s team made a passion project out of collecting used plastic tie wraps to be recycled. They are also replacing plastic ties with reusable items, such as bungee cords.

Girl recycling at Disney's Animal Kingdom

On your next visit to Walt Disney World, Chef Heather has a few tips. “Bring your own thermos of water and refill throughout the day,” she explained. “Bring a reusable bag that you can use for any gift purchases. And ask cast members about our recycling efforts to see how you can help.”

Even at home, you can get involved. “Learn as much as possible on what can be recycled, so you know what can be placed in home recycle bins or needs to be sent to the landfill,” Jan recommended. “Pack your lunch in reusable containers, bring utensils from home, and don’t forget a reusable cup.”

If you’re looking for a sustainable craft this holiday season, Phil challenges you to create a special holiday ornament or piece of décor with items you find around your house. “Create something unique, while celebrating the season and leaving the planet better than you found it,” he said.    

Disney cast member recycling

Thanks to our incredible cast members and guests for helping protect the planet. When you visit or sail with us, we invite you to get involved to reduce your carbon footprint, save energy, and protect natural resources.  Remember, the journey begins with one small step!