April 22, 2019

What a Waste

How You Can Help Save wildlife by Keeping Consumer Waste Out of Landfills


Of the estimated 251 million tons of consumer solid waste generated each year in the U.S., approximately 32% of the trash is recycled or composted, 12% is burned and the remaining 55% is buried in landfills. As a leader in conservation and sustainability, Denver Zoo is committed to saving wild animals and wild places all over the world. That commitment starts right here on our 86-acre campus, where we are working hard towards minimizing the impact of our own operation on the environment and our communities. 

Wildlife Effects 

Unfortunately, there are lasting effects of poor waste control that impact wildlife and wild places. We’ve all been told not to litter, and that pollution has a negative impact on our environment. But that’s only one part of the problem. Negative impacts start well before anything is put into a landfill. How we use natural resources to make consumer goods through mining, drilling and clear-cutting forests can lead to the displacement of species around the world. It’s why recycling is just one piece of the “reduce, reuse and recycle” puzzle. All three actions can help reduce our impact on the wild.   

Our Goal to be Zero Waste 

Denver Zoo is home to an entire department focused on sustainability. One aspect of our program is our goal to be a Zero Waste Operation by 2025. That means that we will divert materials from landfill and recover 90% of our discards through recycling or compost programs. So what’s our plan to meet this goal and how can you do your part at home?  

REDUCE: Reducing the Amount of Materials You Use, Reduces the Amount of Waste Created  

What We Do:  

  • Use Compostable ProductsAt Denver Zoo, most of our single-use items, like straws, food containers, and even packaging is compostable, so please don’t throw those in the recycling or trash bins, compost them instead 
  • Eliminating Unwanted WasteDenver Zoo has not only eliminated the use of plastic bags and many other single use plastics in our concessions and gift shops. Our dedicated staff has also found ways to cut our waste diet by finding alternative products and vendors that support our zero waste goals in our operations. These creative approaches include reducing product packaging and finding reusable delivery systems; replacing single use plastics to either compostable or reusable containers; and changing overall work processes that help result in less paper, materials and time.  

What You Can Do:  

  • Buy reusable over disposable items.  
  • Eliminate single use containers / utensils (no straws, plastic spoons, bags, coffee cups, bottles, etc.) Bring your reusable bag, mug, and utensils.  
  • Look for products with less packaging or provided in bulk quantities  
  • Buy only what you need or what you know you will use 
  • Purchase items that are made from recycled materials (post-consumer content) 
  • Buy used, borrow, rent or share items that are used infrequently 
  • Maintain and repair products. Find products that are designed to have a longer lifespan or can be easily rebuilt or repaired. 

REUSE: Using a Product More Than Once 

What We Do:

  • Support Your Choice and Our Staff’s Choice to Reuse: Guests visiting Denver Zoo can support our zero waste goals while visiting and engage in the reuse culture, from water fill stations to reusable souvenir cups. We offer lots of options to show off those reusable mugs, bottles and cups!  
  • Create a Zoo Thrift Store: Denver Zoo staff love to reuse! So much so that our sustainability team developed an internal hub for staff to share and post unwanted and still usable items for other team members to use in their workspace. Anyone have binders? 

What You Can Do:  

  • Support reuse by shopping at your local thrift store or consignment shop. There are consignment stores for clothes, furniture, tools, appliances, etc. 
  • Instead of discarding unwanted items, donate or sell items. Host a community reuse flea market. 
  • Create an office supply or materials reuse program at your workplace 

RECYCLE: Manufacturing Goods from Recycled Materials Require Less Energy and Virgin Natural Resources 

What We Do: 

  • Recycle: We participate in a single stream onsite recycling program, which is easily contaminated if non-recyclables make it into the bin. Please help us keep recyclables out of the landfill by reading up on Denver’s recycling policy before you toss your waste in the bin.  
  • Circular Economy: We aren’t just recycling items; we’re trying to keep materials in use as long as possible. Denver Zoo works with partners to identify opportunities for circulating recyclable items back into products that can be used at the Zoo. This includes turning recyclable items into uniforms, reusable tote bags, outdoor furniture, guest waste containers and more. Most importantly, these products do not end up immediately back in the waste stream, but are designed to provide use and utility for years to come. While we continue to reduce single use items here on campus, we feel great about these circular economy wins we are able to achieve along the way.

What You Can Do:  

  • Sign up for curbside recycling or compost (if available) at your home. If you live in a multi-family unit or apartment complex, work with other residents to request recycling services for your building.
  • Identify recycling resources in your community. We love EcoCycle’s A-Z Recycling Guide, or City and County of Denver’s Recycling Directory.
  • Help build a recycling program at your workplace.
  • Do your part and help keep the recycle stream clean. Check out your local hauler's instructions on how to keep contaminants out of the recycle stream.

Even implementing a few of these suggestions can have a large impact on our planet’s well-being. Join us in committing to reducing waste this Earth Day! 



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