Cincinnati Zoo Keeps 5,000 Pounds of Trash Out of Landfill with Zero Waste Events

Posted October 31, 2023

Sustainability efforts benefit Last Mile clients, ODRC, and the Planet 

 CINCINNATI, OH (October 24, 2023) – Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, aka The Greenest Zoo in America®, is moving closer to its goal to be Net Zero Waste by 2025.  A cross-departmental team, along with partners from the community, set out to make the Zoo’s big 2023 fundraising events zero waste and was able to divert 2 ½ tons of waste away from the landfill along with 3 tons of recyclable materials.  

 “In addition to managing the trash generated at these events, we were able to donate the excess food to our partners at The Last Mile Food Rescue,” said Ben Liles, Cincinnati Zoo’s manager of park services.  “We have donated almost 3,000 lbs of food that they have been able to turn into meals to provide directly to people in need in our community.” 

A team from Last Mile was on site during Zoo La LaWild About Wine, Zoofari, & Zoo Brew to facilitate food rescue and provided 2,434 meals with what they took away.  “We are bringing a supply chain and logistics mindset to the problems of food waste and food insecurity. The two problems can be solved, and we can end food insecurity in greater Cincinnati using our ‘Uber’ model,” said Last Mile CEO, Eileen Budo. 

“Only 100 lbs of waste of the 10,660 lbs left after these events, went into the landfill,” said Liles.  “These numbers along with the food that we were able to donate represents a better than 99% diversion for our zero waste events.  We consider that a tremendous success.” 

Determining that an event has achieved the zero waste goal happens after material is removed from the Zoo’s property.  The Zoo transports the waste to an Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC)-run sorting facility. Sorting is a paid opportunity for inmates to work outside the walls of the facility where they are currently incarcerated and is a much sought-after position. ODRC provides a breakdown of what was in the trash after sorting is complete.  

“Waste reduction is a huge part of our Zoo’s conservation efforts, and the success of our zero waste events this year have served as a proof of concept of what is possible,” said Liles.  

Next steps involve looking for ways that the Zoo can expand its zero waste efforts into its daily operations to achieve its net zero waste goal.The Zoo’s food and retail partner, The SSA Group (SSA), has been key to the Zoo’s zero waste successes so far, and the two organizations will continue to work on their shared sustainability initiatives.