Since 2011, the Akron Zoo has diverted more than 3.6 million pounds of organic waste from landfills. Previously, the zoo had been using an outside vendor who would collect their organic waste and take it to a composting facility. After experiencing changes with their initial organic hauler and increasing limitations on acceptable organic material, Akron Zoo decided to look for alternative solutions for their organic waste to help them reach their long-term goal of being a zero-waste organization. After evaluating their options, the Akron Zoo decided that the Big Hanna in-vessel composting unit was best suited for their needs. The finished compost produced in four to six weeks, is used at the Akron Zoo for soil amendment and for landscaping through partnerships by groups like Keep Akron Beautiful and Let’s Grow Akron.
The community development grant from Ohio EPA’s Recycling and Litter Prevention Program (R&LP), along with match funds from Akron Zoo, were used to pay for the composting unit and other equipment. The Big Hanna unit will allow the zoo to compost 20,000 pounds of organic waste annually, including some typically difficult items to compost like vegetable flatware and animal waste. The Big Hanna and the building that encloses it serves as a model and educational opportunity for the zoo and its visitors to learn about sustainability. The zoo has hosted more than 200 tours of the facility, including institutions like Akron Public Schools, Kent State University and Goodyear. Akron Zoo has collaborated with other organizations such as the University of Akron by using some of their organic waste.
Through the R&LP community and litter grants, Ohio EPA offers funds to local governments of up to $200,000 per applicant for the collection and processing of recyclables. Communities and non-profits can also receive funding to implement litter collection events and tire amnesty programs. A 25 percent match from the applicant is required and the grant period is 12 months. For more information about Ohio EPA’s community and litter grants, visit epa.ohio.gov/ocapp/Grants or contact Dave Foulkes at David.Foulkes@epa.ohio.gov or (614) 644-3118.