Sustainability Strides at Knoebels
For almost 30 years, Knoebels Amusement Resort has been recycling, reusing, and renewing materials that would have otherwise been considered park waste—keeping 3,920,053 tons of material out of landfills. Fourth generation Knoebel family member, Trevor Knoebel, first formalized these efforts in 1994.
“The program itself started out of concern for our environment,” shares Knoebel. “The natural landscape is a key part of the park, and we wanted to do what we could to protect the environment for future generations.”
Knoebels shares how this initial desire to create a more cohesive recycling process grew into an impressive facility—and system—that parks of all sizes can learn from.
Taking Recycling to the Next Level
In 2002, the park decided to further advance its recycling efforts. “We decided to centralize the operation and opened the recycling center, which allowed us to increase the tonnage capacity. The program helps us responsibly manage our waste stream,” says Knoebel.
The recycling center is 7,200 square feet and one of the largest facilities at the resort. In the program’s first year, 18,175 pounds of material were recycled, with that number climbing to 350,000 pounds by 2022.
Dan Bonomo, the program’s manager since 2016, says he expects 2023’s total to surpass 400,000 pounds. Since 1994, Knoebels has recycled over 8 million pounds of material ranging from plastic, glass, and cardboard to excess steel from construction of the Impulse roller coaster, which opened in 2015.
Managing Sustainability Superheroes
Bonomo manages a team of 24-26 workers who help collect, transport, and sort through the recycling barrels scattered throughout the park, two campgrounds, pool, and golf course.
Over the years, Bonomo has doubled the number of barrels across all Knoebels properties and has made the sorting process more thorough to increase the number of recyclable items.
As for the future of the program, Bonomo says he has plans to expand and wants park guests and his team to know their recycling efforts are making a difference not only in the beauty of the park, but also in the environment.
“Everyone who visits and works at Knoebels plays a role in the continued success of the program,” said Bonomo.
While the recycling program hasn’t been financially lucrative, Knoebels remains committed to continuing operations and acknowledges the comprehensive benefits.
“There is a cost to collect and dispose of items, whether we’re recycling them or putting them in the trash,” says Trevor Knoebel.
“However, recycling does take a few extra steps to clean, sort and prepare the materials for shipping. There are factors that offset some of that cost. There is a financial benefit with the market value of the various materials, but that has never been the driving force to become more and more aggressive with our efforts.”