What to Do with a Zoo’s Bamboo?

When a pair of giant pandas came from China to the Toronto Zoo in 2013, they caused a rock-star frenzy. But the Zoo soon discovered they had a bit of a waste problem: pandas consume a lot of bamboo — and their leftovers were piling up.

Worse still, the uneaten bamboo was ultimately ending up at a landfill. “Because it takes so long for bamboo to decompose, our industrial composters won’t accept it,” explains Nia Gibson, Coordinator of Education for Sustainable Development Programs at the Toronto Zoo.

Enter Partners in Project Green.

bucket of bamboo stalks

Launched in 2008 by TRCA and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, Partners in Project Green brings together businesses, governments and institutions to promote sustainable practices. Among its initiatives: Material Exchange, an online platform designed to divert materials from landfill by facilitating resource exchanges between organizations and service providers.

Through Material Exchange, the Toronto Zoo found a partner capable of re-purposing the excess bamboo, making it the first zoo in North America to succeed in diverting bamboo from landfill.

“Our partnership has been great,” Gibson says. “Before we were sending 100% to landfill, and now we are diverting 100% of our bamboo.”

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