Melbourne Zoo

Changing contractor behaviour to reduce waste contamination and increase reuse.

Melbourne Zoo worked with catering contractors to reduce contamination of the catering waste being added into the Zoo’s organic waste recycling program and increase the amount of waste processed at their onsite in-vessel compost system. There is now less waste going to landfill and more ‘Zoo Gro’ compost to re-use onsite and sell.

Looking at your waste is a useful thing to do

The Melbourne Zoo completed a waste assessment conducted by the Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) in early 2013. The assessment identified that 72% of the contaminants in the landfill waste stream were from organic material. The zoo reflected that on a bad day, contamination of the organics waste stream could be as high as 80%, which meant material was sent to landfill rather than being processed in the onsite in-vessel compost system. The assessment identified opportunities to re-use the waste, reduce the cost of landfill disposal and increase revenue from the Zoo Gro compost.

Small solutions can make savings

The zoo and VECCI jointly identified that the largest savings could be made if the catering company could separate food scraps (organic waste) from general landfill waste streams. Management was quick to support the findings and backed the project team to work with the catering company to implement changes. These changes included introducing better signage in the kitchen areas explaining which wastes should go in which bin and providing training on waste sorting to existing catering staff and during the induction of new staff. The result is that contamination rates now routinely range between 0% and 20%, a significant improvement

Less money on waste means more money to save wildlife

The change in waste disposal behavior has improved the volume and quality of compostable material processed through the onsite in-vessel compost system. Melbourne Zoo now has more compost available for their gardens and enclosures, as well as more ‘Zoo Gro’ product to sell. These changes have saved the zoo an estimated $7,200 per year, which goes back into their breeding and recovery programs for threatened species.

Advice for others

The zoo is a firm supporter of sound environmental management practices. It aims to achieve zero waste to landfill by 2019. On its journey the zoo reflect on the importance of being open minded, starting small and using imagination to solve problems where solutions are not immediately obvious. The changes the zoo made were not only good for the environment and reduced costs, but had additional benefits of reducing manual handling of wastes and improving staff morale.



Melbourne Zoo


Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) Waste and Materials Efficiency Assessment – a Beyond Waste Fund Project.


Identify waste avoidance, reduction or re-use strategies in small to medium Victorian businesses.


Project completed in June 2013.


  • An estimated $7,200 savings per year
  • Improved the volume and quality of compost for zoo’s operations and their ‘Zoo Gro’ product
  • Reduced contaminated waste to landfill by a minimum of 60%
  • Improved OHS impacts by reducing manual handling and sorting of wastes
  • Improved staff morale.


It was important for VECCI and the Zoo to jointly agree on priorities for the waste audit and areas identified for savings.

Next steps

Continue to drive waste reuse and avoidance to achieve ‘zero waste to landfill by 2019’.

Businesses should consider waste reduction because it can reduce costs, it is good for the environment and I believe it improves staff morale.

Thomas Meek – Compost, Recycling and Waste Manager

Further information

For more information on this case study contact:

Thomas Meek

Ph: 1300 966 784