Cincinnati Zoo Digs Deep into Trash to Advance Goal to be Zero Waste by 2025

Posted January 7, 2022

Sometimes, its not easy beingreen!

CINCINNATI, OH (January 7, 2022) – Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s net zero waste manager, Mallory Geresy, doesn’t mind getting dirty or smelly if it gets the Zoo closer to its goal to be net zero waste by 2025.  Earlier this week, she spent the day working with Hamilton County R3Source to collect, sort, and categorize the Zoo’s trash.

“We performed a waste audit in order to collect data that will help enhance our mainstream, specialty, and organic waste recycling efforts,” said Geresy.   “Weare working to create a list of hard to recycle items, or items that cannot be sent in mainstream recycling to Rumpke, in order to develop a specialty recycling program.”

Waste audits are a data collection procedure performed by collecting, separating, and weighing trash and recycling. They are designed to analyze an organization’s waste stream. This audit included waste generated by park guests as well as bagged waste from the back-of-house operations at the Zoo.

“The goal is to understand if the guests who come to the Zoo understand what should be recycled and what should go in the trash, and we’re also looking behind the scenes to see if employees understand the same thing,” said Karen Luken, CEO Economic Environmental Solutions International and Hamilton County R3Source audit team member.

   In addition, the waste audit will help the Zoo better target its recycling education efforts.  Known as the Greenest Zoo in America®, Cincinnati Zoo strives to be a model for sustainable practices.

“We discovered a good amount of paper waste that could have been recycled, so that’s one thing we need to work on,” said Geresy.  “Organic waste – primarily animal poop and food – is of particular interest, as that’s something we plan to process on site.”

The Zoo has been trialing an aerobic bio-digester to turn organic waste into a soil amending product that it can use in its gardens. The plan is to get the internal logistics figured out before installing a much larger unit in 2023 as part of its new elephant facility. Data on volume and types of organic waste found during the audit will be used to determine what kind of equipment and processes we need to have in place in order to process food waste and poo from elephants, rhinos, zebras, and even Fiona!

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is working hard to be net zero by 2025.  It is already off the energy grid on most sunny days and has saved billions of gallons of water with its stormwater management program.