Monday, October 25, 2010

Recycle & Transfer Station Tour

By Jaime Wilson, Green Team Member

The Sacramento Zoo Green Team had the opportunity to tour the 140,000 square foot Sacramento Recycling & Transfer Station last week to learn more about how recycling works and gain some insight into what we can do better. The general recycling (paper, cardboard, plastics, glass and metal) that is generated here at the Zoo goes to this facility as well as what is considered hazardous waste (batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, paint).

There are three parts to the station.

  • Waste Transfer: The trash truck comes here and drops off the garbage. Then it is loaded into transfer trucks that move 25 tons of trash in each load to the landfill. They move about 1,000 tons of garbage every day!
  • Material Recovery Facility (MRF): This is the recycling part. Everything from your recycle bin is dropped off here, moved along a conveyor belt, sorted and then packaged into bails to be sold. They process 450 tons of recycling each day!
  • Hazardous Waste: The scary stuff that can't go into the landfill ends up here. They take paint, motor oil, batteries, fluorescent bulbs, aerosols, pesticides, solvents, medical sharps and much more. They sort, package send the items off to be recycled or disposed of properly.

As a resident of Sacramento County, you can drop off large items and appliances (for a fee), and household hazardous waste (free, but limited amounts). Check out their website for hours, fees and details.

Here is a photo tour of how they process all the stuff we put into those recycle bins!

1) The mixed recycling is dumped on the far side, and the cardboard is dumped on the near side.

2) the items are moved by a conveyor belt up to the workers who sort the items. They look for cardboard, trash and contaminated items, and paper. They pull them out and drop them into shoots that lead to the big holding bays below them.

3) Most of the glass is sorted mechanically, crushed and sent down a conveyor to the white collection bin. As one bin fills, they move another one under the constant stream of crushed glass.

4) This set of shoots and ladders mechanically separates out the newspaper, the mixed paper and everything else like plastic bottles, metal cans, etc. Each ends up on it's own conveyor belt.

5) At the far left, there are another set of workers that sort items on each line making sure only the stuff they want is on the belt. The last step is a magnet that takes out the tin cans and metal, and a electrical current that pops out the aluminum cans.

6) As each of the storage bays fill up with the workers items they are put into large bailing machines that will compress and wrap the recycling. Then they are stacked and prepped to be sold to companies that will use the materials to make new stuff!

It is a pretty impressive system and we learned some great things for our everyday green practices.
  • Package your shredded paper into clear plastic so that it is properly contained and they can see what it is.
  • If you are recycling plastic shopping bags, cram as many as you can into one bag and tie up the bag. That way they can easily grab it off the line and get it into the right place.
  • Rinsing your tin cans isn't necessary, but it does help reduce the contamination on other stuff in your recycling bin.
  • Take a trip out to Household Hazardous and go "shopping" in their free area. They often have large quantities of household paint, cleaners, and other items that are mostly full or have never been opened!
So, make sure you keep on recycling all those bottles, cans and newspapers! And don't forget to take your scary stuff like used motor oil, latex paint, fluorescent bulbs and batteries to Household Hazardous. It doesn't cost you a dime and it keeps very harmful stuff out of the landfill.
If you don't know what you can recycle, visit and look under "How do I recycle" for tips and information on just about everything!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Education Bulletin

By Brooke Coe, Education Specialist

Due to our ever-changing world, animals adapt their behavior, physiology, or structure to accommodate their habitats. Every animal has acquired adaptations over time to help them survive, and some are much more noticeable than others!

For instance, picture a hedgehog, a tortoise, and a poison dart frog. Each of these animals has developed a barrier on their body that dissuades a predator from taking a bite. They are three very different adaptations, yet serve the exact same purpose: protection.

The hair on a hedgehog’s back is composed of a very thick matrix of keratin (the same component in human hair or fingernails) and modified into a very pointed spike. When a hedgehog encounters a predator, it rolls itself into a ball, leaving only the spiked hair exposed. They protect their most vulnerable spots – their head and soft belly, from hungry animals.

The tortoise is best known for its protective heavy shell that surrounds the softer body parts. The shell, permanently attached to the spine and ribs of the tortoise, is the only defense against predators in the wild. It is made out of the same type of dermal bone found in human skulls. The bone grows around the tortoise body in early development and is covered by keratin scales.

Poison dart frogs maintain levels of defensive toxins in their skin, and the most potent of frogs have enough toxin to kill 10 humans! They all have brightly colored skin to advertise their toxicity. Typically, predatory animals get the hint and leave the dart frogs alone.

Each of these animals has different protective qualities to survive in the wild, exhibiting some pretty unique adaptations. To learn more about the exciting animal kingdom, visit the Zoo with your school group in the fall and can take advantage of special programs like Zoo Previews or Survive and Thrive: An Animal Adaptations Show. Sign up online or 916-808-8814.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It Was a Wild Affair!

By Jaime Wilson, Zoo Blog Keeper

The first Saturday in October, the Zoo hosted its 15th Annual Wild Affair gala and fundraiser. The night was filled with elegant d├ęcor, delicious food, mouth-watering cocktails, high-energy bidding on auction items and behind-the-scenes animal tours led by our very own zoo keepers.

What was the best part? Spending the evening with our generous donors who have put us a step closer to SPLASH! The North American River Otter Habitat Renovation and Expansion project. We couldn’t do it without you!

And speaking of thank yous, we have so many more!

  • Dave Bender of CBS 13: Our enthusiastic host and talented auctioneer!

  • Patrick Mulvaney of Mulvaney’s B&L and Culinary Specialist: Chef and his team prepared a delicious Farm-to-Fork style dinner highlighting the best foods our region has to offer and some really delicious fruit infused cocktails.

  • Ed & Jessica Goldman: The ever talented father and daughter team who rewrote and recorded songs for “My Fair Otter”, a zoo-themed take off on “My Fair Lady”.

  • Steve Ayers (Honorary Event Chair) with Armour Steel & Iron Mechanical: The title sponsors of Wild Affair and partners in improving the Zoo!

  • US Bank, McGuire Hester, Wells Fargo: Generous sponsors that helped us put on a great event!

  • Village Nurseries: Who created a “River Runs Through It” entrance to our event tent with hundreds of beautiful flowers, plants and trees.

  • Tobey Oxholm from Drexel University: He sold raffle keys like a champ and gave our Development Director a run for her money!

  • Our dedicated volunteers: It’s beautiful because of you! From centerpieces to hanging butterflies, we can’t thank you enough.

  • The Zoo Staff: Not only did they dress up as animals for the “My Fair Otter” show, they made the costumes, choreographed the moves, led the tours and made it all happen in a way that makes it look effortless! They put on one heck of a party!

We hope to see you at next year’s Wild Affair on October 1, 2011!

Here is a slideshow of highlights!