Recycling Week 2021 is a great reminder that we all have a tonne of power in our hands to do simple stuff to help ensure a future for our planet’s wildlife, wild places, and ourselves.

At Auckland Zoo, we’re celebrating ways we can do this and invite you to join us. Why not have a go at composting your fruit and vege scraps so they don’t have to go in your landfill bin? To help get you started, you can take one of these great free online Auckland Council workshops.   

As much you can, buy items with no or minimal packaging that can be recycled, and use reusable bags made from natural materials over single use - even the compostable ones. Plus, if you haven’t already, make or get yourself a reusable face mask –something we all need in these Covid times.

If we’re all doing things like this that help to reduce Aotearoa’s waste and carbon emissions, then together we really can make a big positive difference to protecting our planet, whose health we are all dependant on.  

Every year, Kiwis send around 3.7 million tonnes of rubbish to landfills. In Auckland, that’s 1.6 million tonnes, and over half of what goes into landfill bins is organic (food) waste.

When organic waste breaks down, it produces methane - one of the major greenhouse gases that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere – contributing to rising temperatures and climate change, which is already having devastating impacts on wildlife, ecosystems, and peoples’ lives.

Our mahi to reduce waste

The Zoo is proud to be marking its fifth year as a carbon zero certified organisation, but we still have lots of mahi to do.

Since we began our carbon zero programme, we have dramatically reduced the amount of waste we’re sending to landfill – down from 296 tonnes per year in 2015-2016 to just 58 tonnes today. Furthermore, we’re now diverting around 88% of our waste from landfill per year. This means just 12% of the Zoo’s waste goes to landfill, and we have ambitious plans to keep reducing this even further!

“Like everyone striving to live and operate more sustainably, Auckland Zoo is on a journey. We’re excited to see what we’ve achieved so far, but also to be always looking ahead at what more we can do,” says Auckland Zoo’s Environmental Initiatives Advisor, Claudine Gibson.

With around 700,000 visitors annually, over 200 staff, 200+ volunteers, and more than 1400 animals to care for across our 16.5ha, there’s a lot to consider!

Initiatives like engaging Clean Event NZ to hand-sort all Zoo waste onsite - from plastics, glass, and paper to food packaging and food/organics (77% of our total waste), have enabled the Zoo to achieve zero contamination of our recyclable waste ahead of its collection by Enviro Waste.

It’s a long and full-circle life for the browse (plant material) throughout the Zoo’s animal habitats, both indoor and outdoor areas - for everything from food, environmental complexity, and habitat design to perching and gnawing material.

Once used, the majority of these browse ‘leftovers’ (a large proportion of our green waste) are chipped onsite and recycled as woodchips for use throughout the Zoo’s landscaped areas and some local parks.

South East Asia Jungle Track

Increasing our rainwater harvesting capacity is also a big priority for us. The installation of five new water tanks across all the habitats in our new South East Asia Jungle Track development, has enabled us to increase our rainwater harvesting capacity from 100,000 litres to 290,000 litres.

We’re using recycling in innovative ways across the Zoo – from transplanting hundreds of trees and plants from other Zoo areas, to choosing to use decking made from 50% recycled plastic and 50% recycled wood fibres. A more sustainable alternative to hardwood, we’re using it for all our jungle track boardwalks – including the boardwalk over our lake that’s opening to visitors in just a few months!

Claudine says some climate-positive actions we can all take are to think twice before we throw away and to minimise the number of ‘new’ things we buy, to collectively produce less waste. Buying second-hand, reusing and re-purposing items, and choosing products made from recycled materials will all help reduce demand on natural resources and our negative impact on the environment.   

Have your say on Aotearoa’s waste strategy

According to experts, if everyone in the world lived like we do in New Zealand, we would need three planets to sustain our demand, but collectively, we can help turn this around!

The New Zealand Government is currently consulting on a proposed new waste strategy that sets an innovative bold direction for everyone to transform the way we think about and manage waste. The consultation document, ‘Te kawe i te haepapa para - Taking responsibility for our waste’, can be downloaded via the Ministry for the Environment’s website. You can also submit your views on the overall direction and detail of the strategy and the potential scope and content for new legislation. Your feedback (deadline 26 November) will help shape the Governments final proposals.