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Buffalo Zoo teams up with WNY company to turn animal waste into compost for your garden

The zoo hauls waste from herbivores to Buffalo River Compost which takes over the process to turn it into something useful for gardeners.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — There's a growing partnership between the Buffalo Zoo and a local company that could help your garden bloom this spring and summer.

They're turning tons — literally tons — of animal waste into something more useful.

It's called Zoo Poo, and sure the name is a bit cheeky, but it's doing good for the zoo and the environment.

"The zoo has an excess of manure each day, each week that they would put to a landfill or recycle elsewhere," said Alistair Holden, organics manager at Buffalo River Compost. "It's a mutually beneficial need. They have a need to take the waste off site, and we have an outlet for the waste to be turned into a resource for the community."

They only take manure from animals with a plant-based diet, such as rhinos, zebras, and bison.

The zoo hauls one to two tons of manure and animal bedding, like straw, to Buffalo River Compost a few times each week. Crews there take over and are responsible for turning piles over, monitoring the temperature and moisture content, and keeping an eye on carbon and nitrogen ratios.

Science and nature do their thing, microbes break everything down, and after nine months to a year, the pile of raw material turns into nutrient-rich compost that's ready to be packaged and sold for use in gardens.

"The reason that it's so good to become a compost is it's full of nutrients that we've fed the animals that the animals don't need and that has come out as waste," said Lisa Smith, Buffalo Zoo interim president and CEO.

The Buffalo Zoo is one of a handful of zoos across the country with a partnership like this. 

"It's a win win win for us. We do have a lot of materials for us on the grounds that can go into this cycle of being used in another way. It's sustainable for the environment and good compost for our community to use," said Smith.

And if you're wondering, the finished compost doesn't smell like it did when they started. It doesn't have a strong odor; instead it has an earthy scent.

Zoo Poo is being sold at various garden centers in Western New York.


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