Recycling is an important part of sustainable living and working. Good zoos and aquariums work to educate people about reducing their impact on the environment, so it’s no surprise they have some great recycling initiatives themselves.
The clothing industry is emerging as a big player in waste production. In Australia for example, 6,000 kg of clothing is dumped in landfill every 10 minutes! Some zoos are tackling this issue in the workplace and setting a good example for others by recycling zoo uniforms. Australia Zoo participates in the Uniforms 4 Kids Program, which takes their old uniforms and uses volunteer sewing professionals to make beautiful clothes, which are distributed to kids in disadvantaged communities. These kids are so proud to have new clothes and really appreciate them.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary have a new initiative that has seen their old uniforms recycled as filling for ottomans through Boomerang Bags. The organisation uses volunteers from all walks of life to get together and make re-useable ‘boomerang bags’ using recycled materials to provide a sustainable alternative to plastic bags.
It’s a solution that WAZA Sustainability Award Winner, Wellington Zoo have also adopted. They partner with a local company called The Formary that works with end-of-life textiles, transforming waste such as outdated uniforms, repurposing them, placing them back into the supply chain. On top of this, Wellington Zoo have also partnered with local ethical uniform company Little Yellow Bird to provide their new uniforms. The company uses organic chemical-free cotton (which has a much smaller environmental impact), can trace garments from the seed to disposal and ensure fair pay for their entire supply chain.
Organic matter like food, vegetation and water are another area that Wellington Zoo have done significant work. They have their own composter on site and reuse the mulch for gardens and habitats. Plus, they collect over 300,000 litres of rain in water tanks around the Zoo for bathrooms and cleaning.
Water is a challenge for Pūkaha Mt Bruce, who have no town water supply. They carefully harvest water from the roof of the visitor centre and recently completed a major upgrade of the onsite water collection system with a new UV screening and filtering, as well as upgrading their onsite sewerage plant to provide full secondary treatment.
No food goes to waste either! Pūkaha’s Bush Bird diet leftovers are used as food scraps for a local farmer’s pigs. Parts of the wildlife diets that aren’t grown at Pūkaha are provided by some of the local community. Local neighbours provide things like walnuts, seasonal fruits and browse for the aviaries.
Last year Kiwi Birdlife Park began the massive job of removing 200 pine trees from the park at Queenstown. The pines are introduced from North America and cause all sorts of problems for the growth of native flora. They’ve now begun the massive second phase of the project by planting 5.5k native plants within the park to replace the removed greenery and encourage native wildlife to visit.
The trees that were removed will be re-used to craft building materials and furnishings for a brand-new kiwi house. It’s great to be able to construct the new building with materials grown at their own park and the team are really excited about the ongoing project.
Operating any business requires the use of a variety of products and there are a range of organisations helping businesses to recycle the old products and packaging. With the help of ‘Close the Loop’ Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary recycle all empty Ink and Toner cartridges with ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’. All cartridges are recycled into useful items such as Tonerpave for road surfacing, pens, rulers and eWood which are a replacement timber product.
Of course, at the core of zoos and aquariums is conservation education and many ZAA-accredited zoos participate in the phone recycling initiative: They’re Calling on You. The project encourages the community to recycle old mobile phones at the zoo. Over ten years, ‘They’re Calling on You’ has collected more than 164,000 phones and raised more than $271,000 for conservation.
Donated phones are refurbished and reused, reducing the need for new raw materials and providing communication to people who cannot afford phones. Older and damaged phones are recycled, and the components are extracted for spare parts and the materials recovered. The initiative began at Zoos Victoria and other zoos participating include: Taronga Conservation Society, Zoos South Australia and Orana Wildlife Park.
Dolphin Marine Magic are also calling on the community to recycle with a new social media campaign. At Dolphin Marine Magic (DMM) they promote the slogan EXPERIENCE.DISCOVER.ACT (EDA). They ask everyone to take time out of their day to pick up a piece of rubbish and put it where it belongs. And whilst doing that to have some fun as well – take a selfie and #EDADMM!