Taronga Zoo: Putting a stop to single-use plastics

Taronga Zoo: Putting a stop to single-use plastics

We can all do something to reduce the amount of plastic waste in our environment. Here's what Taronga is doing to reduce its environmental impact.

It’s estimated that at least 56,000 tonnes of plastic enters our environment every year. And most of this—the plastic waste you see on our coasts and in our oceans—comes from Australian sources.

Although the ocean might seem endless, marine debris is tarnishing our pristine beaches and waterways. This plastic waste poses a major threat to our marine wildlife, and one of the animals most threatened by plastics in our ocean is the marine turtle. Of the seven species of sea turtles, three are already endangered and three are listed as vulnerable.

It’s estimated that a third of all marine turtles have eaten plastic. They mistake it for food and this can cause causes significant internal organ damage. Plastic pollution is harming our wildlife.

We all have a role to play to actively reduce litter entering the environment and causing harm to wildlife—especially our use of single-use plastics. Taronga Conservation Society Australia wants to lead by example and reduce its ecological footprint.

A more sustainable operation

Taronga is striving to reduce its environmental impacts across its two zoos and aims to embed sustainability at the core of all its activities. Taronga has committed itself in 2016 to diverting 90 per cent of its total waste from landfill by 2020. Currently, the organisation is diverting an excess of 84 per cent from landfill through various onsite and offsite initiatives.

As part of this commitment, Taronga is working to limit the use of single-use plastics on site. Already we’ve removed potential sources of litter including balloons and plastic drinking straws from our operations and we’re working hard behind the scenes to do even more. 

More environmentally friendly packaging

In an effort to reduce waste going to landfill, we’ve recently made changes to our takeaway food packaging. Now, food packaging for items prepared on-site are made from BioPak compostable or biodegradable paper  or VegWare cellulose-based packaging. In addition, Taronga now uses cutlery made from bioplastic, a cellulose plant-based product which is also compostable and biodegradable.

We’re in the process of investigating a suitable onsite composting system which can process compostable packaging and organic food waste. This will allow us to have a closed-loop system and potentially use the end product on site. This will also help reduce landfill and reduce the need for transportation.

Another initiative for reducing waste is implementing a Container Deposit Scheme (CDS), which will allow guests at Taronga to deposit used beverage containers into a reverse vending machine which returns a financial incentive. We’re working with the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and aim to implement this system in late 2017.

Stocking sustainable products

Besides adhering to best-practice waste management, Taronga is also working hard to ensure that we stock brands that meet our sustainability and conservation principles. This includes making sure we use sustainably sourced fish certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in our View Restaurant—the first restaurant in Australia to be fully MSC certified. Taronga is also a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and are reviewing the use of Palm Oil across our supply chain with a goal to ultimately use only 100 per cent certified sustainable palm oil.

Next we plan to remove sauce sachets from our food outlets and are working on the persistent issue of single-use coffee cups. We promote coffee keep-cups on site and provide financial initiatives to encourage sustainable behaviour. As a last priority, if take-away cups have to be used, we are ensuring that the cups we will be sourcing will be 100 per cent compostable.

Finding a more sustainable solution

Taronga is working hard to achieve its mission of securing a shared future for wildlife and people. We recognise that becoming more sustainable is a journey we’re all on. Taronga is still on that journey, but we’re actively working to reduce unnecessary waste and potential sources of litter as much as possible.

Taronga believes that we can all do something to reduce the amount of plastic waste in our oceans so we can secure a healthy future for our wildlife. Taronga’s Wildlife Hospital has treated over 350 marine turtles since 1984, many with plastic-related illness. That’s one of the reasons why Taronga has made a conservation commitment to the marine turtle and campaigns to work towards a plastic-free ocean.

With 1.8 million visitors each year, Taronga wants to help drive behaviour change and educate, encourage and empower people to act for the wild and create positive outcomes for wildlife and the environment. 

Join us on this journey and let’s all do our bit for the wild.

Find out more about environmental sustainability at Taronga.